Spring season is nearly ending, bringing with it that seasonal terror of aging and a whole bunch of finales. Spring’s shows seem to be ending reasonably well on average, though this week had its stronger and weaker episodes. The big hit this time was Blood Blockade Battlefront, which rallied back from a weaker episode and a recap with likely its best episode so far. Sound! Euphonium had a stellar episode as well, though it’s hard to pick a favorite in that one. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure also had a fine ending, and Nagato Yuki-chan maintained its streak, though the staying power of its current trick seems like it may be running out. Other episodes were less strong, but nothing seems to be actually falling apart at this point – I’ve dropped too aggressively for that. Anyway, let’s get to ’em!
Blood Blockade Battlefront 11: Jeez, this episode was gorgeous. Now that we’re in the final stretch, the show turned entirely to Black and White for an episode, and Matsumoto certainly made the most of the opportunity. Clearly Matsumoto knows a thing or two about family stories, and her mastery of both framing and emotional nuance were consistently on display in this slow-building childhood flashback. There were classic Kyousogiga tricks, like having White’s internal monologue jump straight to a conversational, almost interview-esque response from her father. There were well-chosen visual motifs, from the constant blotting out of White’s face to the focus on both vision and the camera’s eye specifically (further tying her to Leo). There were plentiful beautifully composed shots, creating lovely symmetries both internally (like the shots that contained both of their beds) or across the episodes or show entirely (like Black dragging Leo down those longs stairs he walked up in episode one). There were well-earned tears and well-chosen songs and the repeated refrains of internal strength and family, both of which reflect on Leo’s journey within Libra. It turns out that, unsurprisingly, when Matsumoto is given full creative control, the results are astonishing. This episode drew on the wild digressions of the adapted chapters to create a coherent thematic whole, telling an engaging little story that fully clarified White’s character along the way.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works 24: This episode was pretty fun! The first half somehow managed to go over the whole “they’re not your ideals – you’re a fake – but I still want to pursue those ideals – etc etc etc” points for the eleventythirteenth time, which wasn’t great, and I also wasn’t the most thrilled about one more “no Saber, I’ve got this, just go… do something over there,” but the second half was pretty much all sparkly swords and laser beam swings and Gil cackling wildly, which are things I am A-Okay with. The show really saved up some tricks for that final Shirou-Gil fight, which didn’t necessarily make too much sense (Shirou really has leveled up a bit in the last few episodes, huh?), but was a sight to see nonetheless. And… nah, actually, that’s pretty much what I liked about this episode. That fight was totally sweet, and the backgrounds were nice, and wait, no, I actually also liked the last conversation between Rin and Archer. Archer’s actual presence here was a bit of a thing (I assumed he was here as a Counter Guardian, but forum responses seem to indicate he actually survived Gil’s last attack, which seems like a worse justification for his appearance), but if stuff like that creates the opportunity for cool fight finishes and decent character bits, I am totally fine with it. Overall, this episode entertained, which is exactly what I want from this show.
The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan 12: Episode three of the disappearance arc managed to maintain the interest of the first two by both ramping up new Nagato’s anxieties and employing some pretty great visual tricks, but I think we’re nearing the end of this material’s staying power, and the show seems to understand that. I’m obviously not eager to return back to happy derpy slice of life land, but I’m interested in seeing how the show reorients itself given the existence of all this material. Clearly it can’t just pretend none of this happened, so maybe we’ll actually see some kind of merging of the two Nagatos, and things will go forward from there? Either way, I’m actually invested in what happens now, which is a pretty fine place to be.
Oregairu S2 12: Well, they can’t all be total winners. A whole lot of this episode felt like S1 material in a bad way, and kind of made inescapable the fact that we’re actually watching a collection of light novels, and not just one coherent story. But the good material was good, and Haruno makes for a pretty compelling villain. I don’t even really need to put “villain” in quotes there – Haruno’s in a place where her actions are based in insecurity and spite, and since that’s pretty much all we see from our perspective, her role is basically 100% an antagonistic one. Sometimes it’s just not your story.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 48: And so the journey comes to an end. This episode wasn’t as much of a continuous narrative spectacle as last week’s, but it did a fine job of making up for that in absurd visual execution. And it wasn’t even the animation this time – it was the beautiful line work and colors, the same stuff that made season one such a visual treat. The defeat of Dio didn’t really make any goddamn sense, but it gave Jotaro one more opportunity to be extremely smug, so I can’t complain. And Joseph pretending to be Dio in the ambulance somehow managed to be one of the most absurd and character-perfect moments in a series that’s basically defined by those. This wasn’t one of the show’s strongest episodes, but it was a fine finale to a second half that has totally redeemed JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Bring on season three!
Sound! Euphonium 12: We got what will likely be the last totally focused Kumiko episode this week, and it was a stunner. This one tied up some character threads that have been building all along this season, but the real star was the tonal execution and visual composition. It was just one scene after another of beautifully composed shots and scenes that conveyed both thematic and emotional positioning, consistently demonstrating how Kyoto Animation are just undeniably best-in-class at this stuff. They don’t make it look easy, but they do make it look good.
Ore Monogatari 12: This was a bit of a lesser OreMono episode, though the faces and Yamato’s thirst remained as strong as ever. It mostly highlighted the sometimes awkward disconnect between Yamato and Takeo, something Suna called out directly at the end, but which has influenced the show all throughout on a less serious level. When it’s just Yamato and Takeo, Takeo often becomes a kind of oblivious punchline, since he essentially never thinks in terms of romance. Meanwhile, one of Yamato’s most endearing qualities is that she’s always feeling either insecure or lustful in a straightforward and understandable way, which puts her way ahead of most romance heroines as far as character writing goes. But this is a one-note joke, and it doesn’t do Takeo’s humanity any favors – at worst, he basically becomes a slightly more joking version of the whole “holding hands oh no we can’t do that” anime purity nonsense. Maintaining this disconnect means Yamato and Takeo can almost never have conversations that go beyond the level of pleasantry, which keeps the show, well, pleasant, but also keeps it from having much real emotional or character-writing power. Many adolescent relationships don’t really extend beyond that level, but that doesn’t exactly make for the most thrilling or emotionally resonant fiction.
Anyway. That’s an issue that’s more reflective of this show overall than this episode specifically. On the plus side, I was pretty happy to see this episode was very dedicated to its equal-opportunity fanservice – normally male sexuality is framed as a joke, but nope, the camera loved Takeo as much as it loved Yamato. That’s a nice thing to see!