Spring 2015 – Week 2 in Review

Well, I’m exhausted. Preview week’s done, my new media and identity essay is out, and I just want to lie down somewhere for a very long time. But anime marches inexorably on, and so it’s time once again for the week in review. This’ll just cover episodes that weren’t already covered in my retrospective – I’ll be continuing Punch Line conditionally and MY Love STORY!! definitely, but their first episodes only arrived within the last week. Other than that, my lineup seems pretty set for the time being. Let’s run ’em down!

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 38: This week’s JoJo featured a hilarious, exciting, and well-composed battle starring Stardust Crusaders’ most likable and intelligent hero – Iggy the dog. There’s not really much I could say to elevate this episode more than it recommended itself – it was easily the best episode of Stardust Crusaders, and likely on par with any of the first season’s classics. AND IT WAS ABOUT THE DAMN DOG.

This one succeeded by bringing the style of comedy back to the first season’s trick. By simply embracing the inherent lunacy of the situation and variables involved (the trash-talking dog Iggy must fight the killer ice-spewing bird Pet Shop), the episode was able to be simultaneously funny and actually exciting simply by committing 100% to its own conceit. Instead of overt jokes, the show just laid on the classic shounen tropes (Iggy darkly thinking “what? did he just smile?”, Pet Shop licking his wounds and spitting out blood), and the fact that they took place between a god damn dog and bird did most of the heavy lifting. And this was actually a really fun fight, and the animation was waaay over the usual bar for this show, and Iggy is somehow easily the most competent and crafty member of the group. His hard-talking narration, the ridiculous freeze frames, the way Pet Shop just kept fucking showing up behind him with an angry “BKAWWW” – this episode was genius. I’m glad I stayed on the ride until now.

Stardust Crusaders

Sound! Euphonium 2: My review of the first two episodes is up! This episode was a bit less perfectly concise than the first one, but introduced more characters, more humor, and more nuance to the themes and relationships. Euphonium is unfolding at a very steady pace so far, and it remains gorgeous, so I have high hopes for the show.

Sound! Euphonium

Unlimited Blade Works 14: So we got something of a Medea backstory episode this week. This didn’t really do that much to create sympathy for Medea herself, since what was added didn’t offer much of a unique dimension or motivation for Medea (and no, further alluding to her lore does not count as creating tangible character motivation). It also just didn’t line up meaningfully with everything we’ve seen from her – that the villain who cackles maniacally while torturing Saber also saved some orphans that one time doesn’t really do much in an emotional sense. But on the other hand, this sequence was just entertaining enough television, with her first Master’s ultimate downfall being a particularly lively sequence.

It was in the last act that this episode really kicked into gear, when we learned what was already pretty obvious – keeping Shinji on the board was largely just a pretext to let Gil do whatever the hell he wants. And right now, Gil wants to kill himself a Berserker. Ending this episode on that cliffhanger was a classic asshole move, but the buildup to the fight was great, and honestly did more to create personality for Ilya’s two homunculi servants than the rest of the episode did for Medea. An offhand conversation that reveals a long-established relationship can do more work than an episode of unfocused motivation.

Unlimited Blade Works

Plastic Memories 2: Well, the first episode was the hook, so this one was unsurprisingly less engaging. We got more introductions around the office, more building of the relationship between Isla and Tsukasa, and more echoes of the main themes, all slotted together in a slow package that kinda dragged at times, in addition to having too many tired beats (having both Michiru and Isla do that shy turn-back apology was pretty egregious). Tsukasa’s turning out to be a perfectly fine lead, and the show’s aesthetics remain strong – lots of dynamic character animation, just an overall polish, etc. Both the big positives and negatives remain centered on Isla herself.

On the plus side, the points the show is making about Isla’s fear of death play in a really poignant space that anime very rarely explores. Isla continuing to train and get herself evaluated despite its pointlessness is a very relatable tendency – the idea of no longer being the person you once were, of your body slowly failing on you despite your committed effort, is as terrifying as it is inevitable. She keeps rechecking the numbers, keeps holding on to what she has left, but growing infirm with dignity is tough. On the other hand, her personality still seems too based on her being cute and helpless – I don’t want the show to try and make her appealing because she’s moe, I want it to make her into a fully realized person that the cast understandably fears losing. Plastic Memories seems like it could be dancing on the edge of the Clannad Cliff, but there’s so much good here that I really hope it takes the steps necessary to avoid stumbling.

Plastic Memories

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 2: Christ this show is comfy. Comfy as all fuck. Nagato is relatable and full of endearing expressions, days pass in a series of harmless personal exchanges and half-wagered romantic gestures, and turkey is good. We’re digging into a pretty simplistic story of Nagato attempting to gain some needed confidence, but the focus here is clearly in creating the fuzziest possible atmosphere, and Nagato Yuki is definitely succeeding at that. The consistent Haruhi callbacks are a pretty strange reminder of the inherent disconnect of this show, but I honestly think I’d rather see this commit to actually engaging with the relationship between Kyon and Nagato than try to act as some weird shadow of the original series. My guess is that neither of those threads will actually be pursued in a truly satisfying way, but I can always hope.

Nagato Yuki-chan

Blood Blockade Battlefront 2: Yep, still feels like I’m watching a classic in the making. We got our first episodic adventure this time, with Leonardo getting kidnapped by a body-snatching ring and the team having to show off all of their very awesome talents to recover him. The standalone nature of this episode makes me feel like we’re dealing with something that’s equal parts Cowboy Bebop, Baccano, and Kill la Kill (stylish vignettes in a retro-fantasy New York with comic book rules), which is just a stupidly good space to be playing in. Matsumoto’s direction remains excellent, the score is still dynamic, and the world just keeps gaining flavor. Little visual flourishes offer constant gifts, and the interplay of the characters and their various abilities already feel like familiar friends. I get the feeling this adaptation is downplaying some not-so-hot humor from the source material, which peeked through a bit in the episode’s first couple scenes, but the adaptation manages to sell jokes like Zapp stealing Leonardo’s pizzas through the strength of the pacing and visual execution. Overall, this feels like both an incredibly well-realized production and the easiest gateway anime I’ve seen in years – this should go straight to Toonami, right now, immediately. Matsumoto sure picked a project that really, really suits her talents.

Blood Blockade Battlefront

Oregairu S2 2: Hoo boy, this was a dense episode. I feel like I just want to dump my entire set of notes, because there were so many little moments worth describing. In fact… yeah, let’s do that. Whole lot to talk about, let’s break it down:

“Ghosts in haunted houses aren’t scary. What’s really scary are people.”

Kawasaki (silver-haired girl) just runs for it

Hachiman and Yui being cute

Ebina’s the fujoshi girl that whatshisface is into

Yukino and Hachiman sitting far apart, divided by the giant rock of the garden. Works both for their actual body language and for the metaphor of their relationship


Blond girl has picked up on them doing something with Ebina

She’s really looking out for her friend

“If you had to sacrifice many things to protect one, you’re more likely to give up and throw it away.” Specifically to fujoshis, but it applies more generally to how we have infinite choices until we make a choice

She says she’s fine once Hikki says Hayato gave the okay

Right, and Ebina just wants the group back together and happy

“Food I didn’t have to work for tastes awesome.” Hachiman is such a teenager pretending he’s an adult. When has he ever had to “work” for food?


Really sweet just watching the three of them be friends and hang out together

Hayato also likes things as they are now

“If this is enough to ruin your friendship, was it really that strong to begin with?” Hikki’s such an asshole, oh my god

“It’s more ridiculous that you’re trying to enjoy superficial relationships like that.” Hachiman has deep, misguided views about what constitutes a “correct” friendship. He sees all these high school relationships, because they require making social compromises and aren’t incredibly rich, as “false” and not worth keeping – but people value their bonds, and really care about their friends. These relationships aren’t fake, and even the fact that everyone is expressing reservations about losing them demonstrates that. Hikki torches bridges to avoid being hurt, but most people value their relationships, and bonds come in a variety of styles

“Right now, the environment I’m in is everything to me.”


This is a classic situation – a romantic tension that can’t really go anywhere, and would only ruin things if it were acknowledged

“Well then, what would you do?” “What I feel isn’t relevant.” But it so is. Hikki’s philosophy crumples instantly when exposed to pressure

“You’re the last person I wanted to turn to.” Hayato being very honest – he normally plays the game well, but here he’s legitimately mad, because Hikki’s a legitimate asshole

One thing the show might even underplay is how right other characters often are to dislike Hikki – we see him as a troubled figure, but he really is an asshole most of the time. His jokes and blunt lines can come across as endearing to us, but they’re not jokes to the people around him. He’s an incredibly difficult person to be friends with


Oh god, this confession setup is so absurd. Ugh, teenagers

Again, good distant framing in the confession setup. All these characters keep being framed as miles apart through these mid-distance shots

Hachiman makes the confession, so she can make it clear she doesn’t want to go out with anyone. And again he burns his bridge, resolving things without actually earnestly connecting with people. He sees the pieces, but refuses to actually engage in a sympathetic way – like how teenagers think they’ve “figured it all out,” and thus are above society. It doesn’t make him happy, and it’s not nearly as clever as he wants to think, but it feels safer

“I knew that was the only way you knew how to do things.” Hayato’s kind of selfish himself

Hikki’s slouch-walk is so perfect


Yukino chews him out for it, in her quiet, defeated way. She refuses to be a cynic

Tons of animation in this sequence between Yui and Hachiman

“Don’t do stuff like that again, okay?” Aw, Yui

“You should give more thought to how others feel. How can you understand so much, but not understand that?” Both his overall mental block to avoid the pain of connection and his very specific block when it comes to Yui

Sometimes it’s actually right for things to change. Hikki can’t see beyond the existing social moment – his defensiveness is predicated on an inability to see how things naturally change across high school, and the related necessity of accepting the pain of being hurt

Hina thanks him for at least resolving her situation


“I sort of like how you can be so honest with people who don’t matter to you.” “What a coincidence, I like that about myself, too.”

“I like myself and everything about me right now. I haven’t felt that way in ages, so I don’t want to lose it.” Go Hina

18 thoughts on “Spring 2015 – Week 2 in Review

  1. “I like myself and everything about me right now. I haven’t felt that way in ages, so I don’t want to lose it.” Go Hina

    But then she says that’s why she hates herself. She’s trapped in the same situation as Hikki. She hates her happiness, or hates what she has to do to maintain it. Well, I guess her admitting it is what sets them apart.

    “You’re the last person I wanted to turn to.” Hayato being very honest – he normally plays the game well, but here he’s legitimately mad, because Hikki’s a legitimate asshole

    Huh! Guess sometimes I overlook the obvious when looking at the deeper, especially as I thought of this mostly after the episode ended. Hayato is kind of selfish, as you later intimated, which is also what tied it all for me – Hayato knew this would be how Hachiman solved things, because he always did. He still made the request of him. And he hates himself because of what he sacrificed to maintain the status quo, the same thing Hina sacrificed – they sacrificed Hachiman.

    And yes, this episode of Plastic Memories felt like the real “introduction episode,” sans the premier’s energy. Hope it picks up in an episode or two, once the table is set. Though really, did they need it? I wonder.

    • Yeah, I was honestly kinda sad Hina added that line. Obviously they’re all insecure teenagers, but she doesn’t really have anything to apologize for.

      • I think the reasoning was two-fold. From a narrative level, it was to make it clear that Hikki hates himself, because, well, everyone reflects him.

        And yeah, isn’t that sort of the point? That they hate themselves in part because how seriously they take it all? That they hate themselves because they hate themselves for no good reason?

      • I don’t think they hate themselves just because. They hate themselves because the current status of their relationships is glazed over by what they feel is an artificial veneer. They are too comfortable with things are now that they are taking pains to insulate themselves from anything that might permanently disrupt their dynamic, even if that something happens to be as organic as Tobe confessing his affections. But in the process of preventing these organic processes from running their course, they become uncomfortable with themselves. It’s a similar feeling you get when you’re doing some hobby you love as opposed to studying for an exam you know you need to ace. You can’t fully enjoy what you love because this important thing you need to do is nagging on you.

        Hikki may have been cruel when he said this, but they can’t shake off that feeling that part of their relationships dip shallow for them. They can’t be fully sincere with themselves and towards each other where they believe it counts, and this inability eats at them. It’s this tug and pull desire of being genuine and being not genuine that makes Hina hate herself, because she sees herself as a big fat hypocrite. This self-loathing also applies to Hayama, because he also sees himself as a big fat hypocrite.

        And also they despise themselves because they made Hikki do that horrible thing.

  2. I won’t say that Hayama deserves Hikki’s line of cynically aggressive questioning, but I do think that questioning is a mixture of openly sweetening and sussing Hayama’s hypocrisy, which Hayama is fully aware of, given how he physically confronted Hikki about his way of doing things last season. I do think Hayama probably feels that he deserves being vivisected like that. Hayama’s asking Hikki an asshole favor, and Hikki’s being asshole back partly to communicate how much of an asshole he’s being to him.

    • I mean, you note later that Hayama’s not as selfless as he might otherwise seem deep down, but they were both being jerks to each other in that scene. Hayama also has to be called out on that.

      • True. I almost feel tempted just to marathon the last season, so I’m in the proper point of how all these characters see each other at this exact moment.

  3. I don’t think Hayato’s really calling Hikigaya an asshole THIS time; he’s more expressing regret that he can’t think of any better solution, even though he knows Hikigaya will end up burning bridges and hurting himself. He didn’t want to call on Hikigaya because he’s guilty, not because he doesn’t like him.

    And on the same level, Hikigaya’s not being an asshole to him either, he’s thinking out loud, because Hikigaya is preparing himself to do the exact same thing: to act on false pretenses to maintain all of his relationships at their current distance. He probably could have found a way to solve the problem that didn’t cut off Yui’s impending confession at the knees, but he didn’t want to. He’s calling Hayato out as a way of confronting his own hypocrisy.

  4. How many episodes did it take for Steins;Gate to actually get good? The early episodes had Mayuri being Standard HanaKana Moeblob for a good stretch. I only kept going because I alreayd knew that it had a good reputation in hindsight. Maybe Plastic Memories will also make that turn.

    • Well, I actually thought Steins;Gate was good from the start – Mayuri definitely wasn’t (and I don’t think she ever became a good character – I’d call her one of the show’s biggest weaknesses), but the banter between the other characters built up their relationships in a way that I found both engaging by itself and that helped inform the drama of the second half.

    • Honestly, I find it kind of amusing that the “written by S;G author” bit becomes one of the main selling points about Plastic Memories when I actually really disliked Steins;Gate writing. I’m aware that it’s not what the consensus agrees on,and I respect that, the slice-of-life and all the romance/humor/banter bits really didn’t work out for me. It becomes a decent time travel thriller exactly at the halfway point, but still not enough to make me really like it.

      (also, ironically, I have the opposite reaction to Bobduh re:Mayuri. By the end, I felt she’s far outgrown her initial schtick and literally the only thing in the show that resonates emotionally with me~)

  5. Actually, further alluding to the Nasuverse’s version of her lore did explain the psyche behind “cackling maniacally while torturing Saber”. Ufotable removing it has kind of created a fundamental misunderstanding for you, but here you go: http://i.imgur.com/MR6N6su.jpg

  6. Maybe I’m just watching the show from Hikki’s perspective too much, but given all the criticism of his actions wrt his confession, what should he have done instead? Let Hina and Tobe be honest with each other instead of deliberately putting himself in a humiliating situation?

    I’m not trying to start an argument here, I just honestly don’t understand why everyone in-universe made such a fuss about what he did.

    • The characters made fusses for a variety of reasons, I’d say. Tobe because Hikki stole his moment, Yukino because she refuses to accept Hikki’s style of action, Yui both because she thinks he was being unfair to her friends and because she personally has feelings for him, which actions like this demonstrate he isn’t acting with consideration for. The actual best choice here would probably have been to force some degree of honesty between the friends while maintaining their friendship – but Hikki doesn’t (and can’t, according to the way he chooses to see the world) believe in these friendships, and so he resolves it through a lie that keeps anything from actually happening. His statement at the end about all of them being liars is true, and his self-loathing comes from an understandable place – the best resolution would likely have come from a more emotionally mature version of Hikki with Yukino’s values, someone who’s able to respect everyone’s feelings while pushing them forward, instead of blowing up the situation to maintain a comfortable neutral.

      It’s not really Hikki’s fault that he’s not mature enough to do this, and not really his responsibility either, but the actions he did choose certainly weren’t the most thoughtful to his closest friends.

      • Ahh, I was watching it from Hikki’s perspective too much after all. It’s funny, but the idea of having Tobe and Hina be honest with each other didn’t even occur to me so Hikki’s ‘solution’ seemed genuinely clever. After all, they’re all teenagers so any kind of mismatch in feelings would probably result in the friendship imploding. But I suppose that doesn’t give Tobe and Hina enough credit.

        Thanks for the clarification! Looks like I have some growing up to do myself 😛

        • I think this is still missing the point, somewhat. If Tobe and Hina are only allowed to confess to one another because one thinks it wouldn’t cause an implosion in their relationship/group, then one isn’t very different from Hikki, just in what they think would lead to the desired outcome, and it’s being willing to inflict some suffering to get (back) to equilibrium.

          I’m not sure Nick would agree with me, but Tobe and Hina should be allowed to have their moment, in part, because it might implode. The willingness to risk, and the ability to learn how relationships work, and sometimes fail, and going forward, trying to make things work or not, that’s exactly what will lead them to the maturity that they’re holding themselves back from, that Hikki is holding them back from, right now.

          Also, yeah, in high school you can’t really escape like that. From my memories, kids breaking up with another causing a rift in the social group mostly ended in 6th grade (hue). After that, it was pretty quick for situation back to normal. Unlike adult life, you can’t just toss the other person’s number out and not call them.

  7. My favourite Stardust Crusaders episode so far. I think the series is at its best when it just leans as much as possible on the bizarre part of Bizarre Adventure and presents you with something that you’d never see anywhere else.

  8. So how many more weeks will you continue to say “This episode of Stardust Crusaders was as great as Jojo season 1!” for?

    ‘Cause really, regardless of SC’s flimsy plot, the fights have been as good as season 1’s for a long time now. Certainly, they’ve topped Phantom Blood even a while back.

    And to think, we haven’t even reached the two best battles of them all yet.

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