I am watching too many shows. Way too many shows. Shows on backlog and shows for release review and too many goddamn airing shows. I’ve tried to be ruthless. I cut Saekano because the first few minutes seemed typical. I cut Earth High Defense Club because I just didn’t feel like it. But there’s too much good anime! Too many of the premiers weren’t red herrings, too many of the long shots turned out to be great. I’m not gonna survive this season, you guys. Something’s gonna snap.
Well, whatever. Let’s run ’em down, starting with the last two episodes of Shirobako!
Shirobako 13: Shirobako is back, and Aoi’s on desk for Not KanColle. Meaning she has to do basically everything on this show, and also meaning that we get to see production from a higher level within the company. We only got dropped into Exodus long after preproduction had all been concluded – this time, we’re getting to see the very start of the process, from aborted meetings with the mangaka to discussions of how the anime ending should go. Well, I guess we got those last time too, but that was only because the director’s such a fuckup.
Director Fuckup is still on board this time, as is Tarou, but it’s nice to see Aoi really taking charge around the studio. There was a whole lot of checking in with old friends this time, and it’s a credit to Shirobako’s storytelling that I can feel excited for all of the half-dozen or so principals who gained bigger roles. Like Ema’s senpai, who will hopefully be hanging around more often now that she’s the lead character designer, or Dost-chan, who spent much of this episode sporting possibly her classiest outfit yet. With the trajectory of this season currently set on Not KanColle, it seems unlikely the girls will manage to get together for their own production by the end. What that means for the future, I dunno – either this season’s going to throw some serious curveballs, or there might be the chance of a Shirobako 2 sometime down the line.
Shirobako 14: So apparently this episode’s inside joke was that Shirobako itself largely stars relative newcomers, which isn’t that much of a surprise, given how viciously this episode came down on mercenary casting choices. And man, was this episode ever angry! Shirobako’s not usually quite this farcical in its inside baseball criticism, but I’m not complaining – as in the previous episode, the new focus on higher-level and earlier production choices is providing all sorts of fascinating insights into the anime process. And those nuggets of insight are accompanied by great character moments – it was a fantastic choice to set up Aoi as the director’s caretaker this season, and both of Shizuka’s scenes this episode were absolute murder. The framing of her opening scene perfectly evoked the sense of powerlessness inherent in that audition scenario, and her “I would have loved to work with all of you” at the end was one of the best moments of cruelty and truth this show has yet devised. “Grace through hardship” is one of my biggest weaknesses, and Zuka nailed it in that awful moment. Why do I love the shows that hurt me so much.
The Rolling Girls 2: Rolling Girls remains solid, even though I’m still not sure what the actual show proper’s narrative will be about. But it’s energetic and visually arresting and consistently funny, so I’m on board to find out. Goddamn can this show set up a shot!
Saekano 1: Saekano makes me wish all light novel adaptations came with an episode zero warning of exactly where they’re going to go. I might have stuck with this generic premise under the misguide hope that “maybe it’ll build into something,” but since I actually know it won’t, I only needed a good five to six minutes of this episode to learn there’s nothing to see here. G’bye, Saekano!
Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc 2: Fantastic JoJo this week, buoyed by equal parts inventive puzzle-battling and relentless dog abuse. Why does Araki hate dogs so? Does he imagine they’re all like Iggy, secretly plotting to chew his hair and stick gum in his hat? Whatever the reason, as long as it gives us wonderfully surreal moments like Star Platinum chucking Iggy across the desert, I can’t really complain. And the fight against the blind Stand user was a classic season one-style battle of wiles, and there were some nice shots both in color work and shot framing, and the whole thing moved quickly. If all of Stardust Crusaders’ individual fights were as engaging as this one, I wouldn’t have a problem with the series – hopefully they stay this silly and exciting from here out.
Log Horizon 15: This week was definitely a step back from last week’s excellent vignette, but Log Horizon’s always been a show of ups and downs, and the downs do tend to coincide with stories about the younger crowd. Hopefully this story either gains some intrigue or simply avoids detracting from the Shiroe narrative in the weeks ahead. But hey, at least we got Serara’s fluffy outfit and the horror-horses (see below).
Yatterman Night: And Yatterman holds up! I was really happy to see this one keep it together – this episode didn’t have as much excellent animation as the first episode, but the important stuff was all still there. The lovely shot framing. The heartwarming family moments. And the thing that seems most central and weirdly beautiful in this show – the way it highlights the inherent tragedy of gag villain existence as some kind of reflection of human existence in general. This show has just the right mix of sadness and heartwarming, and the way the “heroes” sort of cling to their villainy as the one thing that’s theirs kills me. The ED of this episode makes it seem like we’ve actually only been watching the show’s prologue or something, so I can’t say where this might go, but so far it’s basically nailing all of Sekai Seifuku’s best elements.
KimiUso 13: There’s a sort of interesting tension in the disconnect between KimiUso’s melodramatic style and its very charged, intimate variables. It can be difficult for the show to come across as truly sensitive to its characters at times, but I think this episode threaded the needle on resolving Kousei’s relationship with his mother. It really comes down to the truth that his relationship with her can’t be defined by any one element. She was abusive, and that’s inexcusable, but that doesn’t make her an unknowable monster, and it doesn’t mean this story is forced to resolve through Kousei condemning and forgetting her altogether. There’s no one there for Kousei to forgive at this point, and so to step forward he instead embraces what he loved about his mother, and says goodbye to her while acknowledging she is still a part of him. I don’t think this narrative has always been the most graceful, and KimiUso’s writing belabors points and threads too often, but I think this conclusion was just about right, and that scene where Kousei was finally able to cry was perfect.
Cinderella Girls 2: This episode wasn’t nearly as strong as the premier, unfortunately. The humor, the narrative focus, and the visual highlights were all lessened, as the show rushed to introduce the entire rest of the Cinderella Girls lineup. We got a little time to get to know bonus idol number one, but the eleven others were all basically a hello and a gimmick (Goth Loli, Catgirl, Sleepy, Rocker, etc), and the overall episode was just too… perky? It felt really artificial, basically. The first episode focused on Rin, and because Rin is the biggest counterpoint to the usual idol perkiness, the first episode was good – but with all these super-enthusiastic idols being introduced at once, it was much harder for this episode to come across as real at all. Hopefully a little more time with the cast will help fix that.
Parasyte 14: Kind of a mishmash of stuff going on in Parasyte. The story seems to be between hooks at the moment, and since the last major arc (the Kana storyline) was also the weakest so far, the show’s kind of lacking in momentum. Hopefully the new challenger baited at the end of this week puts an end to that.
Yuri Kuma Arashi 3: KUMA SHOCK! Ikuhara’s back, and in light of that, I’m back to plugging away on timestamp writeups. Yurikuma seems significantly more transparent than his prior works, at least for this point in the narrative – it might be because he’s forced to value clarity due to only having one season to work with, but it kinda seems like Yurikuma’s cards have already been laid on the table. Fortunately, a show like this doesn’t have to rely on withholding information – it’s still beautiful and engaging either way. I’m a bit worried the brief runtime is doing some damage to the show’s characterization and overall atmosphere, but there’s still time to bolster that stuff. The thing I’m most looking forward to is Kureha and Ginko hopefully having an honest conversation – both of them have spent a great deal of the show so far talking in ideology, but their clash promises to give the show more of the humanity it needs.
Death Parade 2: In spite of this episode being far less immediately exciting than the premier, I think I actually enjoyed it a lot more. Part of it is that the first episode just wasn’t really my kind of thing – it was basically a trashy thriller in the style of, I dunno, Death Note or something, and I’m not really one for that kind of thing. But I also felt this episode strongly demonstrated that Death Parade has wheels – the show’s already questioning the cynical attitudes of its arbiters, and the fact that they’re both infallible and work so entirely through manipulation makes the whole situation a lot more relatable. And while there weren’t any of the big visual spectacles of the first episode, the character animation here was still sharp as hell, with Nona in particular expressing great personality through her movements.
Maria the Virgin Witch: Maria’s keeping it together! The first episode showed promise, but this one really confirmed it – this show is smart, and it’s not going to squander its setting. Maria and Artemis have a great chemistry, Maria herself is a great combination of proud, brittle, compassionate, and immature, and the show is equally comfortable using its religion-infused setting for barbed jokes and larger points. For once, Christianity isn’t just a wacky, “exotic-looking” bit of window dressing – Maria’s actually diving into the church, and drawing a strong contrast between the hypocrisy and control of church-as-organization and the actual priorities of the world’s angelic overseers. And Maria’s what keeps it all together – her personality lends itself equally well to scenes where she’s being a scandalized young person and scenes where she’s hammering on her simplistic pacifist philosophy. My one worry last week was that the show would spend too much time respecting her “I hate battles” line, but here, in the very next episode, her naivety is outlined and condemned by the Archangel Michael himself. Great stuff!