Another very fine week in a very fine season. Oregairu and Euphonium both pulled off characteristically wonderful episodes this week, but the real surprises were JoJo and – I’m serious – Nagato Yuki. On the JoJo side, the Dio-Kakyoin fight managed to not only be exciting and entertaining, but genuinely beautiful. And on the Nagato Yuki side, an abrupt shift in tone resulted in an episode that was almost equally beautiful in its own way, slow-building and melancholy and just brimming with a compelling, deeply felt sense of atmosphere. Color me extremely surprised!
Alright, enough preamble. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN.
Sound! Euphonium 10: This was one more ringer of an episode for Euphonium, as conflicts came to a head regarding Kousaka’s solo. All the characters have been built up into fully realized people now, and the show is doing wonderful work of playing them against each other to challenge those core questions of working for the group versus working for yourself. Euphonium just makes storytelling look goddamn effortless most of the time. It’s a pretty ridiculous show.
Ore Monogatari!! 9: The first half of this episode was all cute faces between Takeo and Yamato, which, while nice enough, I feel like I’ve already discussed in every way I possibly can. This show is charming and breezy, and it’s nice to see these kids enjoying each others’ company, but it can sometimes take me a while to get through the scenes that don’t do anything we haven’t seen before.
The second half, on the other hand, was wonderful. From Yamato’s mood-shifting “why did you keep quiet about something this important” onwards, the elaborations of friendship turned from simple communal smiles to something a bit more poignant and profound. Lines like that demonstrate that these characters aren’t just cute, they’re meaningfully invested in each other, and when it comes to meaningful elaboration of friendship, the scene between Takeo and Suna at the hospital was very likely the show’s best yet. Takeo doesn’t understand his friend, but that doesn’t matter – “I have no idea what you really want, what you’re really thinking, or what the right thing to do really is, but I’m your friend.” It’s odd to see Ore Monogatari!! of all things reminding me of Oregairu, but that might as well have been cut directly from Hachiman’s recent statements. People won’t always understand each other, but their mutual concern is real. Takeo cares, and that’s all that really matters.
Oregairu S2 10: This was a lighter episode than even the last, which I think we still needed at this point. This season has been 90% suffocating drama as Hikki almost loses every friendship he cares about, and being reminded of why those friendships were great in the first place is a very good thing. Iroha remains a strong addition to the cast, and that mid-episode insert song montage was a powerful damn dirty trick. Oregairu is motoring comfortably back into the station.
Blood Blockade Battlefront 10: This was a reasonably charming cooldown episode before the fireworks of the two-part finale. Nothing too emotionally engaging, nothing too dramatically rousing, just some silly fun with BBB’s usual visual tricks. That came with some predictable pluses and minuses – as usual, when the show leaned too heavily on its big gags it fell over (and this episode was essentially one giant gag, so it was far from the series’ best), and as usual, when the show relied on visual creativity it shined. The big theme here was “family,” with the waitress at Leo’s diner expressing this directly, Zed echoing it less obviously, and White just kinda embodying it. The best structural trick was the way this episode echoed the first one, through a mix of the repeated sidewalk crowd shots, the revisiting of Leo’s diner, and the repeated cold open/rewind dramatic structure. And the best joke was probably the ballsy but smart choice to just completely skip the fight with those 1,000 Chinese battle-suits attached to 1,000 alterworld jerks entirely. Not a great episode, but an okay one. BBB will keep.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 10: Welp, the Big Thing finally happened. Nagato almost gets hit by a car, and suddenly her personality has reverted back to the old Melancholy one. This could just be an in-character issue, but that seems unlikely, given the way the show keeps baiting the old world and even has Asakura frame this as “who are you?” Either way, the execution of this episode was wonderful – it was labored and, well, melancholy throughout, strongly creating a very specific atmosphere through pacing, framing, and sound direction. Yep, this episode was actually good!
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 46: JoJo is often visually interesting, but rarely beautiful; this episode was gorgeous. Even though we finally got to see the reveal of The World’s mechanics this episode, which had their own great visual effects, the beauty of this episode was all thanks to Kakyoin, and his final stand against Dio. His vast web of hierophant threads was a striking visual concept, and David Productions made the most of it – shots framed his weapon against the angles of the buildings, through flowing water, and as it dissolved gently into nothing. It was a wonderful sendoff to one of the core JoJos.
The rest of the episode proceeded nicely, as well. Momentum remained high throughout, Dio’s hamming continues to be highly entertaining, and the action framing was dynamic and full of shots that could easily work as standalone pulp adventure covers. Ending with Jotaro’s blunt “I can’t beat the shit out of you without getting closer” was just the cherry on an episode full of all the things that make JoJo great.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 22: Well, I’m still happy the Archer fight is over. This wasn’t really a good episode, which mainly came down to the content-stretching and the fact that Rin often seemed to tumble into the most textbook tsundereisms imaginable, but it’s still nice to see different things happening again, and there were some some good moments. When Rin wasn’t being all tsuntsun moe moe “DON’T GET THE WRONG IDEA,” she actually had some fine character moments – I particularly liked her honest reflection that she’d never really had a wish of her own, and was merely following in her father’s footsteps. And some of the Rin-Shirou interactions were pretty cute. The totally-not-a-sex-scene-what-are-you-talking-about was pretty strange, mainly because it really did feel like the beginning and end of a sex scene from the all-ages version of a story – the camera was all wink wink-nudge nudge throughout, and Rin’s reactions seemed to reflect a scene that we weren’t actually seeing.
That obtrusive visual novelness continued in the final scene, where Saber just announced her character arc was now complete. Obviously the show wanted Shirou’s fight for idealism to count as an arrival at internal peace for Saber as well, but she’s been sidelined far too much, and her story has been way too underwritten, for this to feel like a meaningful conclusion. Instead, it felt the same way the Archer/Shirou fight did – like the characters were just announcing their character motivations and shifts instead of going through a story that actually involved playing out those conflicts. But again, this still wasn’t twenty minutes of Shirou and Archer repeating the same lines at each other. Small victories.