Fall 2014 – Week 7 in Review

There was no Rage of Bahamut this week, but everything else kept up the year-saving tempo. KimiUso exchanged last week’s animation showcase for a more subdued but equally impressive character-focused episode, Shirobako gave us moe animation tsunderes, and Amagi pulled off another Haruhi-style triumph. But the real surprise this week was Sword Art Online – following on the heels of a fairly pointless filler arc and tedious exposition episode, SAO pulled out what was quite possibly its best episode of all time, and almost definitely its best fight of all time. Even if you don’t watch SAO, I might still recommend just checking out the second half of that episode if you enjoy fight scenes – the direction and animation were all kinds of impressive this time. You did good, Sword Art.

Anyway. Let’s run down the week!

Shirobako 6: Shirobako was clearly having a lot of fun with itself this week, as the episode was essentially a tsundere romcom between traditional animation and 3DCG. The highlight was definitely that final scene, where the two animators bonded over their shared love of Idepon and hatred of Tarou, but this episode was just very warm and confident all around. That’s not to say it completely lacked in Shirobako’s usual edge, though – even if you’re not particularly invested in the attrition war being waged against traditional animation, this episode’s constant refrain of “drawing back on the inspiration that brought you to your field” was sad in its own way, too. All the various artists here are constantly trying to square the inspirational nature of their formative art experiences and the grinding, unglamorous reality of making that inspiration a career, and I think there’s something melancholy in the fact that the only real answer is “the feelings that brought you to this hard place were real and valid.” I don’t think Shirobako needs to work very hard to feel sad – the lives it’s describing are inherently tough enough that you can feel the nobility of their passion.


Amagi Brilliant Park 7: Like in episode five, this week’s Amagi just took one Haruhi-esque adventure idea and ran with it. And also like episode five, that choice resulted in one of the show’s best episodes to date. When Amagi is on, it is really on – the whole cast contributes, scenes pop with full jokes and tiny gags, and the show is just more plain fun to watch than anything else airing. “Actual pirate invasion is played off by employees as park attraction” is basically two silly gag conceits wedged together, and Amagi delivered almost purely by riffing on everything you already know about these characters, letting its excellent timing and visual gags do the talking. It’s rare that I see a show that has this little need to be creative – Amagi is about a clear articulation as you could get of the fact that execution is everything.

Amagi Brilliant Park

Parasyte 6: It feels like Parasyte’s been building momentum every episode, and with Shinichi’s mother dead, we’re now into territory that I don’t clearly remember from the manga. I do remember enough to know they’ve been rearranging events a decent bit, though, so I’m excited to see what they’re building towards either way. And hey, it actually seems like the music’s improving! Good times.


Fate Stay Night 6: After the high of last episode, we once again cooled off with a lull that established some context and moved some pieces around. I don’t really find the Shirou-Archer dynamic as interesting as most of the others here, but the Shirou-Saber dynamic is much, much better than the relationship she shared with Kiritsugu. Shirou and Saber have enough in common values-wise that they can actually bounce off and learn from each other, which makes me think this is one of the areas where Fate/Zero being created after FSN makes sense. Framing the Kiritsugu-Saber relationship as a kind of comment on this much more successful one makes it at least a little more interesting, though I still think it was one of the weakest elements of Zero.

I’m also fine with Shinji being straight-up comically evil – the Fate universe has room for both nuanced heroes and extremely silly villains, and if you’re gonna make a silly villain, you might as well make them love what they do. I look forward to Shinji’s future cackling machinations and likely gruesome death.

Fate Stay Night

Log Horizon II 7: More of a buildup episode than much else this week, though we’re starting to reap the rewards of the character development Akatsuki and Lenessia have been going through. That doesn’t really give me that much to talk about, but I’m a professional, so I do my God Damn Best. Here’s to next week’s big crazy fight scene!

Log Horizon

KimiUso 6: This episode just kept building and building for me. I like that the characters have started to settle into their relationships at this point, meaning it’s not dominated by the immediate drama of them clashing. Instead, this episode’s first half was able to really focus on what Kousei and Kaori have in common – their passion for music. There were a bunch of great moments for each of them, and a lot of lines I really liked – Kaori’s melancholy reflection that “Kousei’s trying to turn his suffering into music – that’s how we live inside our music, that’s how we play music that’s alive” was about as beautiful an articulation of the art instinct as you could ask for, and Kousei’s own “so it’s just you and me again, huh” to the piano said just as much in far fewer words. Though KimiUso’s drama and dialogue are often heightened to the level of a stage play (something this episode actually emphasized through its use of lighting, which reflected very strongly on Tsubaki’s “outside the spotlight” conflict this episode, which etc etc etc), its reflections on why people create art are always grounded in very true sentiments. This show’s overall feelings towards creation are something I can relate to more than any single character.

Not that that means the characters are necessarily slouching! I still haven’t really connected with Kaori, but I think this episode did great work for both Kousei and Tsubaki. Being past the point of dramatic introductions means we can now see Kousei at his comfortable neutral, enjoying his time with friends, and that’s really helping to humanize him beyond his central music conflict. And this episode’s second half was all Tsubaki, culminating in that fantastic “let me carry you” reprise at the end. This episode was more quietly excellent than last week’s animation showcase, but it was excellent all the same.


Sword Art Online II 19: Yeah I said it, and I’ll say it again – this week’s SAO was actually really good. Obviously its character scenes aren’t gonna be incisive or poignant on the level of a legitimately well-written character drama, but the Asuna-Momsuna scene here was handled very well, and the fight scene that followed was excellent. I will happily take my gifts where I can find them!

Sword Art Online

Chaika -avenging battle- 6: Board-rearranging episode again, as Chaika is so fond of doing. I’m fine with that, though – the idea of throwing all these characters into a big fighting tournament seems like a perfect use of them, and promises a very entertaining second half of the season. I’m much less interested in whatever’s going on with Guy and Hatsune Miku, and this episode’s attempts to pretend Hatsune has a personality came off as pretty damn contrived, in spite of how entertaining it is to see her and Chaika conduct their half-conversations. I’m also not really sure what to make of the way the show is now using Gilette – Guy’s Sith Lord speech about him being “unable to live in a peaceful world” didn’t really make any sense to me relative to everything we know about Gilette’s character, making the scene feel similar to Toru’s plot-driven about-face from a few episodes ago. But Chaika’s rambled around far too much to hope for narrative or thematic grace at this point, and so I’m not really offended by the quirks of its storytelling. Bring on the big fight scenes!


18 thoughts on “Fall 2014 – Week 7 in Review

  1. Yea, KimiUso is so on point about the artistic journey. Its a wonderful show. I feel the theatrical esthetic really suits the subject, since it’s a really passionate subject, and every missteps can really feel like the end of the world.

    • Yep! Even the age of the characters is well-chosen, as they’re also at the point where every success or failure feels like falling in love or the end of everything.

      • This is actually the first positive comment I’ve seen regarding their age choices, which most people think is weird considering the show is part romance, but when you put it like this it actually makes a lot of sense.

  2. This episode of KimiUso was also more enjoyable for those less engaged with its melodrama. You’ve mentioned before that, perhaps more so than for other shows, KimiUso’s elevated methodology may not be for everyone; as part of that demographic, this was my favorite episode so far.

    A couple moments especially felt almost out of place because of their either subtlety or physical realism. Tsubaki talking about Kousei with her boyfriend, and him commenting on it, featured no explicit dialogue on the topic beyond what these persons might actually say, and no internal monologue to clarify events – the audience already knows what is going on here. The final scene of Kousei carrying Tsubaki had a bit of that as well. What Tsubaki is shouting and crying about is how much her leg hurts and how much losing the game sucks; even if she is really struggling with how she feels about Kousei, the words coming out of her mouth are much less like those from a stage play. I almost laughed when she broke out into tears over the events of the day – I got it! That was at last one of those smaller moments of character realism that have been to some extent hidden in the folds of the ornate writing.

    As much as anything, this episode was reassuring. It showed that KimiUso is willing to let its characters speak for themselves – or not. The audience gets a much better understanding of what Tsubaki is feeling and thinking by what she doesn’t say than what she does. Particularly in the context of how verbose everything else in KimiUso is, her occasional silence – even with herself – explains more than any amount of dialogue, however beautiful, could.

    • Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t mind if this were a sign of things to come. The less heightened dialogue does seem to make it easier to get a natural bead on these characters – I definitely felt more connected with them this week than previously, though that also comes down to the welcome fact that they’re no longer constantly going through the first-episodes clashing of the previous ones, and can actually act as their normal selves.

  3. I actually basically gave up on watching stuff this season, which sounds wrong because of how apparently good everything is… So I appreciate you telling us what’s up with the stuff this season. It tells me what I should marathon eventually. But honestly, of all things, SAO is what I’ve been watching today- and this new arc is exactly what could have made SAO so much better. (Instead of a giant pile of steaming- )

    BUT HEY, time to catch up on all that stuff I bought and hadn’t watched yet. 😀

    Actually, I had one question for you- I’m one of those that tends to buy physical copies of what I like, but that’s so hard anymore. Log Horizon is good, sure, but is it $80 for Season 1 ON SALE good? Because holy crap. @_@ SOME things are that good IMO, but… ugh.

    Do you ever run into that issue, or are you more a Madarame kind of guy?

    • Sadly, I can’t embrace the Madarame system of purchasing – I wait for sales, and still haven’t bought Madoka, even though it’s my second-favorite series. One day!

      Personally, I don’t think Log Horizon is that good, but the only thing that really matters here is how much you think you’d get out of owning it.

      • Ah, I see. The only things that I’ve spent more money on than was reasonable are Madoka, Silver Spoon, and Shin Sekai Yori. I feel all three are on that level.

  4. I’m also super psyched about seeing what happens to Shinji. Though…

    SPOILERS, maybe

    apparently Unlimited Bladeworks is the only route he doesn’t die in, lol. Guess we’ll see how faithful this adaptation is.

      • Yeah, sadly, the whole “save everyone” thing includes people who really, really, REALLY don’t deserve it (even the Big Bad is all, “Dude, are you guys serious? He’s, like, the original GamerGater!”). He does get to go through a whole lot of excruciating pain, though, so there’s that at least.

  5. @SAO: I still like the aerial fight scene in the first season more, but this holds a solid second place to me.

  6. “Even if you don’t watch SAO, I might still recommend just checking out the second half of that episode if you enjoy fight scenes – the direction and animation were all kinds of impressive this time.” But isn’t that the point of having sakugabooru? 😛

  7. i loved as the sao 2 , all of bob stuff, but i really didnt like whhen they started alll that alo stuff…

  8. Parasyte, Rage of Bahamut and Fate/Stay Night UBW are the three shows that I’m truly looking forward to watching every week. Shirobako has a great concept but each particular episode varies in terms of how well it’s being implemented.

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