Shirobako ruled the roost this week, with a standout episode that pulled all of the show’s ideas about finding your purpose together into one lovely, melancholy time capsule. The other shows were pretty cool too, but man, that Shirobako. That Shirobako.
Yeah, let’s just start right there. Running them down!
Shirobako 19: What can I even say about this episode? “It was a triumph” – yeah, that’s true. “Best episode of Shirobako yet,” also definitely yes. But I feel like fully describing what makes this episode great would require covering the entirety of Shirobako’s true-to-life melancholy, nuanced approach to aspirations, and ultimate sources of hope. And we’ve still got half a season to go! From the early scenes that moved beyond Aoi’s perspective to reveal the show’s total awareness of her naivety, to the varied reflections on life paths and dedication, to the beautiful and perfectly appropriate segue back to Musashino and Andes Chucky itself, everything in this episode worked perfectly in tune to carry Shirobako’s resigned optimism.
Everything in Shirobako is cyclical – life isn’t so kind as to give us immediate rewards for our pain, so in order to find meaning in our lives, we have to look both forward and backward at once. The employees of Musashino may not have achieved everything they wanted in life, but they can be proud of what they accomplished, and that they invested themselves in their work. Aoi may think Third Aerial Squad is tumbling down around her, but life is always tumbling down around you, and you never know what will come of your trials. The importance of your own childhood dreams and of looking to inspire new ones has always been paramount in Shirobako, and so it was the perfect choice to go back to that blizzard which changed the course of her own life. I’ve always said that my favorite works are the ones that evoke optimism in spite of a sad and difficult world, and this episode was exactly that – after all the “she’s living in a dream” and “you can’t live for your job” and tales of bankruptcy in the first half, Chucky’s “one day this blizzard will end and we’ll see the blue sky” was just too damn much for me. I was right there with Aoi all through the second half of this episode. This is the stuff I watch anime for.
Death Parade 7: We got our third episode focused on the arbiters this week, with a bunch of scattered scenes that filled out a great deal of information about both this world and our major players. The biggest revelations were about the nature of the arbiters generally and Decim specifically – though they’re normally just dummies, it seems that Decim was some kind of experiment to implant them with human emotions. This seems like a kind of odd revelation, considering Ginti is also clearly emotional as all hell, but I did like how it led to the reveal of Decim’s odd, melancholy “hobby.” The Decim scenes were great in general this week – his appraisal of his assistant’s sandwich-making was particularly adorable. I’m all in on the Decim moe train.
The rest of this episode’s material didn’t grab me nearly as much – Nona’s slow-burning misgivings, and the slight bits of worldbuilding surrounding them, just felt too slow-paced to engage. I’m a lot less interested in the breakdown of this arbitrary arbiterarium than how that affects the individuals I’m invested in, so all the ominous plotting just kinda makes me sleepy. The larger plot is clearly coming together though, and the many ways this episode directly admitted to the failings of the judgment system give me plenty of hope for how it all will resolve in the end.
Rolling Girls 7: I think I’m pretty comfortable with the Rolling Girls formula by now, and it seems like the show is too. With a significantly simpler narrative to construct this arc, episode seven was able to indulge of some of the show’s actual strengths – glorious visuals, animation, and rapid-fire gags. I like how the show is actually making jokes out of the heroes’ uselessness, I really liked that fight on the concert stage, and Kyoto is a wonder of great new backgrounds. You’re doing okay, Rolling Girls.
Parasyte 19: Parasyte went full on cop drama this week, with predictably silly results. It’s nice to see the show finally moving with some momentum again, but at least half the scenes this week were note-for-note drama cliches, including the classic “overconfident captain ignores advise of wise old detective” and always-fun “cop goes to visit partner in retirement and pull him in for One Last Job.” It was fun, though – breezy Parasyte is a welcome shift from permanently morose and repetitive Parasyte. I’m ready for the big finish.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 31: I’m guessing some people are pretty mad about the direction JoJo’s been taking lately. This week was JoJo at its absolute most farcical, highlighted by shit like Avdol getting his head stuck in Joseph’s crotch and even a roadrunner-esque sequence where a guy has his bike stolen and then continues to pedal in the air. To people who were enjoying JoJo as a serious cool dude action show (and yes, I’ve heard these people exist), this all must come as a rather silly shock. But JoJo has always been silly as all hell, and by embracing it and really focusing on the comedic timing and sound design, recent JoJo has felt more free and happy with itself than the show has for a long time. There’s still great body horror and whatnot (those electrical wires twisting towards Joseph’s eye were as bad as the escalator last week), but if the show wants to lean on its ridiculousness, I can’t complain. The music deserves special attention this time – half the humor of this episode came from the songs consistently undercutting the seriousness with which Joseph and Avdol approached their situation, which felt like another trick imported from comic western cartoons. JoJo is in a pretty comfortable place right now.
Log Horizon II 20: Log Horizon is killing it. This episode maintained the high standard set by the previous two, offering a compelling Nyanta fight while also continuing the show’s exploration of how people value their lives in this world. I really liked the contrast presented between Londark and Mizufa, as well as how Londark’s statements generally furthered points of gamer psychology already raised throughout the season. Episode after episode, this arc keeps realizing everything Log Horizon could possibly be capable of. I don’t really want this show to end.
KimiUso 18: We got Nagi and Kousei’s performance in this week’s KimiUso, which was… fine. I dunno. I’ve lost my energy at this point – the show doesn’t feel like it’s telling me anything new anymore, and when it’s not pulling off tremendous aesthetic tricks (and for a performance episode, this week was surprisingly subdued in its aesthetic execution), I’m just sort of along for the ride. Nagi’s arc didn’t really do anything that this show hasn’t already done, so… yeah. Hopefully the final stretch with Kaori and Kousei will offer some more visual rewards, but as far as emotional investment goes, I’ve pretty much checked out at this point. It feels like this show had more episodes than it really should have.
Yuri Kuma Arashi 8: It’s Yuriika time! Yurika-sensei finally got her own dedicated episode, which unfolded pretty much how you would have expected – Yuriika was once trapped in the identity-oppressing system, Reia let her briefly experience actual acceptance, Reia’s ultimate “rejection” led her to propagate the system that had oppressed her. All classic elements of the overall Yurikuma narrative, all expressed well and with plenty of pretty or funny details. That last sequence was a stunner, though – the show’s always had to lean on its direction and sound design to cover the absence of much animation, and that scene demonstrated both at their best, with the ominous shot framing and overpowering rain really selling the drama and tragedy. Yurikuma holds strong!
Yatterman Night 7: So I guess we gotta pay for last week’s episode, or something? That episode was a perfect thing, but apparently that upswing had to be matched with an equal downswing, as this was easily Yatterman’s worst episode so far. Not that it was truly terrible, or anything, but… well, I hope you like jokes about having sex with fish, because that’s basically all this episode was. Whooole lot of fish-sex jokes. Yep. That sure is a thing.
Maria the Virgin Witch 7: This week’s Maria was dominated by a bloody battle, and it was exactly the bloody battle the show needed. Maria’s simple ideals finally resulted in some actual consequences – not only was she personally injured by Ezekiel’s spear, but her meddling with the battle resulted in a military loss for France and a serious personal loss for Galfa. Maria getting hit was one of the show’s better-directed sequences so far, and the aftermath of the battle pushed almost all the characters of this show forward in their various relationships. If Galfa’s story weren’t already the harshest of Maria, it certainly is now, and it was nice to see both Viv and Ezekiel come to realize how much they value Maria’s presence. I kinda wish this were the moment that actually forced Maria to accept some nuance in her perspective, but I guess compromise isn’t really in her nature, or at least not yet. We’ll have to see what happens when one of the direct victims of her actions comes calling.