Things have remained consistent this week – so consistent that I’m almost regretting dropping the wildcards. Not that I don’t have enough to watch, of course – a new review came out this week, and there should be more coming soon, so I’ve certainly been watching plenty of cartoons. But what is there to say about this season? The top three (Oregairu, BBB, Sound! Euphonium) remain incredibly stable, Ore Monogatari!! is as heartwarming as ever, and JoJo, UBW, and Yuki are all doing things you’d probably expect from them. I don’t want any of the great shows to fail, so I guess it’s up to the bottom half to surprise me – time to shape up, action shows and Yuki! Give me at least an opening paragraph’s worth of human interest story, so I don’t need to return to the “I’ve got nothing to talk about” well for two weeks straight.
Alright, filled my word quota. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 41: After everything I’ve seen in JoJo, it’s pretty strange that even this week’s dumb track-jumping trick could make me think “that’s fucking ridiculous.” But I think putting it in the context of a videogame, something I’m probably a bit too familiar with, just really hammered home the “yeah, I bet, smart guy” quality of D’arby’s “I predicted you would knock me directly across this chasm and onto the track a loop ahead.”
Anyway. This episode was a bit slow, as the show is clearly dragging out the D’arby fight more than it deserves, but there were still small pleasures here and there. Chief among them might have been D’arby once again mentioning that he uses “#15, because I was born on January 5th.” Between his fixation on his birthday and his obsession with videogames, I see the tale of a lonely childhood hidden behind D’arby’s eyes. Birthdays spent alone with his toys, distant parents and a gambling-obsessed older brother offering no companionship as he dutifully memorized the statistics of one more set of virtual baseball players…
Joseph getting mad at Jotaro for being bad at videogames was also great, and Jotaro’s ultimate moves to test the limits of D’arby’s prophecy-powers were a classic bit of JoJo drama. Aside from that, this seemed like too much episode for too little conflict (both Joseph and D’arby repeated themselves a fair amount), so I’ll be happy to see D’arby’s lonely saga wrap itself up next week.
Blood Blockade Battlefront 5: So this was just some good core BBB, tossing off one more fun vignette that introduced a couple new characters while offering plenty of endearing moments with the old ones. This show always seems tremendously comfortable with itself – it continuously introduces new visual and narrative ideas, but it all fits within a larger world that couldn’t be more firmly established. I’d say Chain got the best of the classic character moments this time (both “good luck” and her “his looks are pretty hot, at least” expression were dynamite), while Aligura’s easy switch from explaining her blood-draining procedure to bugging Leo about his crush made her the better new face, but overall the whole episode maintained the consistency of style, character, pacing, humor, and structure that I’ve come to expect from this show. The Aligura story integrated so naturally with the Matsumoto-added Leo/White material that it actually seemed designed to highlight the greater narrative’s points about love. Some anime make it look easy.
Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works 17: There were some reasonably entertaining fights in this episode, but this was also a clear example of FSN’s writing wandering from “inoffensively bad” to “distractingly terrible.” Fate is pretty much always at its worst when characters are waxing heroically at each other during their big fights, and with both Archer and Caster (likely this show’s two worst-written characters) getting big pedestals this time, it was honestly kinda hard to enjoy the spectacle. I don’t want to hear Archer over-explaining his thoughts on Lancer, or mumbling to himself about what would be the best metaphor for his master plan against Caster. I don’t want to hear Caster tossing awkward snipes at Rin (“can’t you even do math, you… stupid”). Fate has always had a problem of thinking it is extremely good at things it is actually incredibly bad at, and engaging dialogue ranks the highest among those weaknesses. I actually enjoyed this episode overall (ufotable’s effects-heavy spectacles just really work for me, and Shirou tripping over himself is always fun), but that was in spite of the show’s best efforts.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 5: Nagato’s valentine shenanigans continued, demonstrating once again that this show just isn’t that good at drama. All of this episode’s dramatic shifts resolved in the most predictable way they could have, meaning I basically just had a few silly Nagato gags to cling to. I’m not dropping Nagato, so I sure do hope it shapes up for both our sakes.
Oregairu S2 5: Once again, Hachiman “solves the problem” in one of the least problem-solving ways possible. The emotional distance between him and Yukino is still there, and the group actually missed out on a potentially great future for themselves, but these are the people they are, this is what they do. I really liked the Hachiman-Komachi scenes this week (once again, S2 is really making the most of its supporting cast), and Yui’s actions towards Hikki are just making me want to shake him at this point. You’re gonna have to make a real decision some time, dude.
Sound! Euphonium 5: If Oregairu leans more to the “elevated through writing” end of the anime spectrum, Euphonium is perfectly happy to dominate the opposite pole. The sense of atmosphere that was consistently evoked throughout this episode just staggered me – the show’s framing, pacing, and transitions were just so very good at creating the sense of a long day of practice, fading into sleepy goodbyes, starkly interrupted by that one brilliant moment with Kousaka, and then rising again through a bleary-eyed morning into the day of the competition. God damn can this show handle its tone. It’s a show you could almost live in.
Ore Monogatari 4: In another heartwarming episode of Ore Monogatari, Takeo and Yamato celebrate their love by eating sweets, setting up their friends, and leaping from burning buildings. That whole “burning buildings” thing was a bit of a hard and likely unnecessary turn, but everything else this week was Ore Monogatari at its most unstoppably endearing. Yamato and Takeo are way too cute together, and the show is making the most of their feelings to include all manner of silly faces and bend towards a variety of visual styles. Yamato gets the soft-edged colors for shoujo smiles, Takeo gets some undercutting-the-tone hard-lined manly man shots, and even Yamato’s friends pitched in with a bunch of sketchy reaction shots. I think Takeo got my favorite moment of this week, with his “my feelings are fine” comforting of Yamato, and his “Yamato’s always herself, no matter where she is” struck right at the heart of what makes Yamato great. Takeo may take a few too many burdens upon himself, and still doesn’t seem to quite understand what a consistently good friend he has in Suna, but overall he is clearly good boyfriend material. He can save me from a burning building any day.