I should have something piercing and salient to say here, but really I’m just staring at all the stupid faces I chose for the episodes this week and giggling to myself. Goddamnit Takeo. Goddamnit Shinji. Hurray for silly anime faces.
Anyway, some anime came out this week. It wasn’t the best week, outside of Oregairu having one more Holy Shit Good episode, but most of the episodes were reasonable nonetheless. Let’s run ’em down!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 45: THE BATTLE BEGINS. God damn does Dio make this fun. Though it wasn’t just Dio – okay, a lot of it was Dio. Dio’s presence, Dio’s arrogance, the fact that the JoJos are once again facing an opponent that makes you think “how the fuck could they possibly defeat this guy?” – all of that is good stuff. But this was just a stellar episode all around, one that moved well and featured some great dynamic camera work and music and even introduced a wonderful one-episode character. Poor Senator Phillips was doomed from the start, but he sure made the most of his brief life; he didn’t even have to get seduced by Dio, he just went crazy all on his own. The various ways the show is using the secret of ZA WORLDO are also keeping things fun – it’s not a puzzle to me, since Dio’s Stand is one of the most unavoidable anime spoilers out there, but I really like the ways the show is building it up and creating fun dramatic tricks with it. David Productions are making the most of some of the best JoJos material yet. Good luck JoJos, and shine on Senator Phillips.
Oregairu S2 9: This episode started off slow, which was probably for the best. After so many straight weeks of pure tension and drama, it was nice to see these characters feeling comfortable with each other again. These are good characters, and watching good characters spend time together tends to be its own reward. And then the second half saw the show once more outdoing itself, with the framing of the Hikki-Yukino and Iroha scenes doing tremendous work to elevate some of the show’s most dramatic moments yet. Really looking forward to seeing Hikki’s long-term response to all these developments – growing up is hard to do, but he’s been doing a commendable job of it these last couple weeks.
Blood Blockade Battlefront 9: This was an interesting one. It had most of BBB’s usual visual strengths (some wonderfully composed shots, highlights of well-chosen animation, just a great visual style and use of color), but felt kinda messily composed, and definitely awkwardly paced. That mainly came down to the increasingly awkward intersection of the default BBB action shenanigans and Matsumoto’s anime-specific storytelling aspirations – the stuff with Zapp and his fellow apprentice felt like it came from an entirely different show from the Black and White stuff, even as they were being visually juxtaposed. That likely came down to the pacing specifically, as Black’s scenes with the King and Queen both didn’t directly affect the action and also moved at a quarter the speed of the other material, but either way, it’s a weird thing to specifically feel while watching the episode. But even though it contained the second half of a vignette, this was essentially a buildup episode, so hopefully the combination will feel more graceful once we get into the meat of the finale. And either way, things will have to go basically full Matsumoto from here out, so the awkward combo issue will likely disappear regardless.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 9: This week was something of a recovery from the last two, since it included at least one scene where the characters actually felt like real people, but that’s still not a very good ratio. The problems of Nagato Yuki-chan basically demonstrate the difference between good and bad slice of life. If you want time spent simply hanging out with characters to feel meaningful and worthwhile, either those characters have to feel like people worth investing in, or the hanging out has to be entertaining for its own sake. And here, the characters feel simplistic and the gags are just tired, samey rehashes. The show does not respect your time.
Sound! Euphonium 9: Pretty much anything would have been a step down from last week’s stunner, but this episode was still fine. A good mix of emphasizing the friendships of the characters, building tension for the audition, and solidly executing the anxiety and release of Kumiko’s big moment. This one felt a bit more disjointed than the best Euphoniums, but it got the job done, and had its share of highlights. Euphonium stays the course.
Ore Monogatari!! 9: There were far too many excellent Takeo faces this episode, with the highlight definitely being that absurd cherub-framed “my girlfriend is awesome” face, but this week clearly belonged to the relationship between Takeo and Suna. Yamato and Takeo are very cute, and it is refreshing to see an actual couple, but their relationship is still fairly idealized and kinda infantilized. Suna and Takeo, on the other hand, have a relationship that feels entirely real. It’s nice to watch conflicts like this, where nobody is “wrong” – Takeo’s choice to let Suna have his privacy if he wants it was totally understandable, and so was the way Suna tried to bottle up his problems on his own end. A conflict like this, that arises from two very different people just trying to be fundamentally decent to each other, can be as heartwarming as any love confession or date scene. The immediate sparkle of this show has basically worn off, and it’s established a variety of reliable patterns, but it’s still nice to see considered characters trying to be good to each other.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 21: It’s over! It’s fiiiinally over. After just one more half-episode of Shirou, Archer, and Saber all monologuing the same simplistic points they’ve been monologuing for three episodes now, the Shirou-Archer fight mercifully came to a close. We didn’t really learn anything we didn’t already know, and the last three episodes still only contained about eight minutes of actual content, but hey, what’s done is done.
Things picked up immediately once that awful ordeal was finished. Having Archer’s last act be to save Shirou from Gil was a nice bit of natural storytelling, the kind of “hey, this is a narrative format, maybe we should have the characters do things that represent ideas and character shifts instead of just monologuing everything” trick that this show should really have been doing all along. And though Gil is a pretty weird choice for the final boss here (reflective of how this whole show has kind of lacked a coherent dramatic structure for anything outside of the Shirou-Archer conflict), he’s just a really fun dude to spend time with. It’s nice to have someone introduce a little levity into this story. “I want to KILL EVERYONE. But I’m leaving now, because I’m getting soot all over me.” It was also nice to see Gil be legitimately unhappy to hear Kirei had died – they may both be sociopathic assholes, but they were sociopathic assholes together.
Anyway, g’bye Shinji!