There were some good episodes this week, with JoJo and Oregairu tossing out particular standouts, but overall, I have to say this one was defined by its worst episodes. Nagato Yuki had a second straight episode that was just completely without merit, and Unlimited Blade Works hit what I really, deeply hope has to be rock bottom. Last week I expressed hope that Caster’s absence would help the show regain a sense of momentum – well, apparently Archer had other plans. He’s always been one of the weakest parts of this show, and this episode was his grand performance, where twenty minutes of dialogue conveyed ten lines of information we already knew. I’m too far in to stop now, but UBW is not making the ride easy.
But that’s enough doom and gloom for now. Let’s talk JOJO.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 43: Hoooly shit was this a good episode. This was peak JoJo, one of the episodes for the greatest hits catalog. JoJo’s always been a very silly show, but after all this time, they really fooled me into giving a damn about Iggy and Polnareff, and seeing them working together was a treat. There was great animation throughout, a lot of engaging single shots, and a real sense of momentum as the fight moved quickly through stages and counterattacks. Good music as well, really helping to keep the tension high as Polnareff and Iggy were slowly broken down by their opponent (Araki is definitely making the most of this being near the end of the arc, as whether they win or not, this fight is clearly putting both Iggy and Polnareff out of commission). And that ending was just relentless tension – a legitimately dramatic exchange between the idiot frenchman and farting dog, a ticking clock that actually felt earned and terrifying. Vanilla Ice and Pet Shop have been two of the best fights in all of JoJo history, and I’m on the edge of my seat for whatever comes next. JoJo is glorious.
Oregairu S2 7: And the hammer finally falls. At the most cruel time, too – Hachiman is finally beginning to come to terms with his own issues, and just as he starts to accept that he needs to change as a person, Yukino tells him he might as well quit the club. You can’t call her unfair, because she’s going through the same thing and it’s his stubborn actions that prompted this, but it certainly wasn’t compassionate timing. Oregairu’s getting pretty painful here.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 19: Well I sure hope it can’t get any worse than this.
We’ve reached absolute zero of terrible Fate dialogue at this point – an entire episode wasted spelling out one simple point that was already clear from the previous episode. In a better show, Archer’s nature would be a shocking reveal that lands with real emotional impact, acting as a cruel counterpoint to Shirou’s ideals. But here, Shirou’s ideals have always been silly, and never really been tested – we’ve never taken him seriously, so why would Archer’s nature be surprising? And even beyond that, this was just awful storytelling both on an immediate and structural level. The conversation between Archer, Shirou, and Saber had about two minutes’ worth of actual content, but it was spun out and recycled across an entire episode, with characters just repeating themselves again and again. And hearing Archer just say that his ideals were betrayed is the least emotionally resonant storytelling imaginable.
The contrast between Archer and Shirou here and Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero is basically a textbook illustration of showing versus telling. In Zero, we actually saw what Kiritsugu had to do to uphold his ideals, and followed the consequences of those choices all throughout the series, and so the ending came across as the tragedy it was supposed to. Here, we get a season and a half of “Shirou, your ideals are silly,” almost no actual testing of those ideals, and a final “I proved your ideals are silly, and here’s my evidence.” There’s no emotional investment there – that’s the solution to a math problem, not a story. This episode was all meaningless lore-words and endlessly repeated simplistic philosophy, basically the worst elements of Fate synthesized into one rambling, emotionally sterile episode.
At least Shinji got punched that one time. And Kotomine enjoying his evilness is fun. But yeah, terrible episode. Terrible terrible episode.
Sound! Euphonium 7: Euphonium got pretty somber this week, with an episode equal parts sad goodbyes and holy shit that shot framing. Like seriously, every single scene, just beautiful, poignant, effortlessly tone-conveying framing. This show’s always been pretty, but damn – the more melancholy focus of this episode really let the show stretch its emotional muscles. I’m actually happy to see Aoi gone narrative-wise, because she pretty much only existed to provoke this episode, but I was also happy to see how her absence ended up affecting characters other than Kumiko even more than Kumiko herself. The show’s really making the most of its ensemble here – we’ve got a good dozen characters who all feel more or less real. Keep it up, KyoAni!
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 7: God damn is this show becoming a chore. This episode wasn’t as abrasively tired as last week’s, but it replaced that with… nothing. Nothing happened. And normally I’m the kind of person to scoff at “nothing happened” complaints! People said “nothing happened” in Eccentric Family, but if that’s nothing, I’m all about it. But here, “nothing” didn’t secretly imply “there was a lot of subdued character work and vignettes that furthered emotional throughlines while acting as their own reward” – nothing that occurred this week told me anything new about the characters, pretty much all the beats were repeated from previous episodes, and the actual content was just the cast making subdued but obvious reactions to standard tourist things. This is not how I want to spend my time.
Ore Monogatari!! 6: Welp, Yamato’s “big secret” turned out to be pretty much exactly what you’d expect – Yamato wants to actually have a physical relationship, but Takeo’s focus on her being “pure” makes her feel insecure about expressing that. I didn’t really like that no one criticized Takeo for framing Yamato in that way in the first place, and this whole conflict didn’t feel like it required close to two episodes of screentime, but there was still a lot of good material this week. Yamato describing all the things she finds sexy about Takeo was a nice bit of honesty, and Sunakawa’s sister definitively established herself as one more reasonable, likable person in her own way. And then the second half, where Takeo and Yamato spent the whole time giggling about getting closer to each other and slowly figuring out both small degrees of physical intimacy and each others’ boundaries, was both adorable and satisfyingly earnest. Not the best episode, but plenty of the warmth I’ve come to expect from this show.
Blood Blockade Battlefront 7: I ended up taking a lot of notes on this one, even though I didn’t feel it was the strongest episode. There’s just a lot of fundamental stuff to BBB that’s pretty much always interesting to talk about. I got into a bit of this on twitter, but it’s all scattered fragments, so I think I’ll just hand over my actual episode notes. The main things I liked here were the creation of a sense of place, the way the framing kept the viewer emotionally grounded in Klaus’s progression throughout the episode, and the easy conversation style the show’s already constructed between Leo and Black. Here’s the rest of it:
Leo meeting with Black for lunch, talking about White
Their conversation is good. Matsumoto conversations are all good – they have the rough edges of people with different frames of reference kind of unevenly bumping against each other
Black is psychic. Telekinesis – he tries to keep coffee from spilling on Leo
Black seems to value Leo
“You think your knight will come?” Leo also said his sister refers to him as a “tortoise knight,” which Black said means she relies on him. So the meaning of a “knight” is key this week?
Another one of these huge shots that emphasizes the sense of space in the city, as well as the imposing force facing Mr. Klaus
So Klaus is being tricked into competing
I really like the effect of the spotlights. The lighting is very good in this episode
I feel like if I were to write about BBB, the piece should focus on creating a sense of place
This place is offworlders betting on humans. The opposite of last week’s. Exploitation and other-ization are universal
“You guys can all get crushed by us, you small-timer race!” Yep. They see humans as pets
But of course the crowd gets treated as savages too
This episode is actually focusing on the comedic reactions, which I don’t like. Drawing focus to them disrupts the mood
“Why would people come all the way here just to see some blood? Trouble crops up every day in Hellsalem’s Lot.”
“The world truly is a cavalcade of efficiency in violence.” I really, really like this phrasing. It’s just pleasing to the ear, with the tumble of “cavalcade” rolling into the corporate-speak “efficiency” and ending with the abrupt “violence.” “Efficiency” is a labored-sounding word that seems clinical – violence is sharp and beautiful, almost uncomfortable in its easy delivery relative to its meaning
“It transcends species… we’re all giant idiots who embrace these two rules. Fighting barehanded, 1 on 1.”
Everyone’s getting caught up in the flow of the violence, from the contenders to the crowd to the owner himself
“Very nice. It makes me doubt my own sanity.”
The way the music cuts when the vampire is revealed. And the form of the vampire itself. This show is really, really able to create a sense of gravity and fear regarding these creatures
Another gorgeous shot of the city
This was a simpler and in some ways weaker episode of BBB, but it also struck very firmly at the core of many of the things that make this show rewarding and interesting
Black and Leo’s conversations have become really compelling really quickly
So Black’s one of the 13 Kings