Summer season has begun! This may turn out to be just a depressing chronicle of me dropping a whole bunch of shows the moment I continue them, but hey, I gotta do what I gotta do. Basically everything I started this season was in the “okay I guess, I’ll give it another episode” range, and second episodes rarely end up being dramatic improvements over first ones. They often give you a better indication of where the show will consistently go now that it’s gotten over its hook/pilot, but they don’t tend to dazzle as much as the premier. So let’s run down a bunch of also-rans, and see if I end up watching anything more than my sworn writeup duties!
Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace 2: Aaand starting off strong with a “yep, dropped” selection. Ranpo Kitan maintained its nice diversity of visual tricks in its second episode, and I actually liked the way the show didn’t at all take itself seriously, but the actual “mystery” part of this episode was an utter letdown. There just wasn’t a mystery at all – our super-psychopath protagonist just made a bunch of wild hypotheses about the case that all turned out to be proven right. That often is what mystery stories come down to – as much as people like to talk about mysteries “the viewer could have solved themselves,” often mysteries turn out to be magic tricks (basically all of Sherlock Holmes’ stories are magic, for example). But the trick with a magic trick is you have to sell it – you have to make the audience feel the mystery was compelling. And in spite of “I wanted to become his chair!” being one of the more wonderfully surreal lines I’ve heard recently, this one didn’t fit the bill. Cya, Ranpo Kitan.
Classroom Crisis 2: This episode, on the other hand, offered basically everything I was hoping for in a second episode. I’d been worried about this one, because the premier had “one-off pilot hook” written all over it, and that turned out to be true – it’s very likely the actual meat of this show will be far more grounded than the dramatic opening. But in this case, that more grounded meat of the show actually seems even more compelling. The characters are bouncing off each other well, the world is being filled out, and the contrast between Sera’s optimism and the needs of the company are giving the show a welcome underlying melancholy and complexity. This episode was much more “normal” than the first, but it demonstrated that Classroom Crisis’ base variables are strong, which is actually much more important than being able to make one exciting episode. We’ve got a solid foundation to build on here.
Prison School 1: I wasn’t expecting to like this at all, given I found the manga really uninteresting and figured its visual strengths were completely untranslatable. And though the manga’s style sort of is untranslatable, in the end, I actually enjoyed this way more than the manga. I’m pretty sure this came down 95% to this adaptation’s absolutely breakneck pacing. Normally, comedy adaptations don’t work for me because the jokes are stretched out in anime form, thus killing the humor – here, the jokes actually come faster than the manga, which lets the show get its punches in using its great visual humor and strong VA performances before whipping off to the next thing. The show is ridiculous, but I laughed. I kinda doubt I’ll stick with it (I’ve only got so much enthusiasm for slapstick and pee jokes), but I’d say this adaptation is a success.
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers 2: Welp, I can safely say I’m glad I’m not covering this one weekly. This second episode was much weaker than the first, falling into the overtalky weaknesses that defined the first episode’s worst segment and failing to offset that with satisfying action. The writing is pretty graceless in this show, and in contrast to the first episode’s exciting and well-animated opening, the fight scenes in this episode were lukewarm and staged against some mediocre CG monsters. There were some lovely backgrounds throughout, but the banter is too far off from the inherently satisfying dynamics of something like Spice and Wolf or whatnot for “two characters chatting on horseback” to really work. Rokka is now skating on third episode thin ice – if next week is excellent, I’ll probably stick around, but a solid action opening and weak followup do not inspire confidence.
Overlord 2: Aaand another easy drop. This episode maintained the very slow pacing of the first one, but the actual content here was a massive step down. Instead of playing on the very charged melancholy of an MMO’s end, this was all the titular overlord consolidating his power and poking at the new world, along with a good eight to ten minutes of all the characters fawning over him and bickering over who got to be his wife. I guess if you’re super into the yandere type, there’s something for you here, but otherwise, this episode was a total dud. It’s kind of a shame, too – I actually find the base concept of an MMO show from the perspective of a raid boss marshaling his power to be pretty inherently compelling, but the actual narrative choices here were no good. G’bye, Overlord!
Monster Musume 2: Aaand yet, with that said, I for some reason ended up watching the second episode of this show, and actually enjoyed it. Guess I better turn in my critic badge again, if I haven’t already lost it for praising Love Live! and Witch Craft Works and whatever other solid shows I’m supposed to be way too cool for. This certainly isn’t great television, and it’s heavy on the ridiculous fanservice (obviously, it’s a dang harem), but something about its slapstick and absurdity made it a pretty easy popcorn watch. Which is honestly saying something – even with shows I like, it often takes me a while to get through an episode, but getting home from work and zoning out through a ridiculous centaur chase was the easiest thing in the world. It’s upbeat, energetic, and well-animated, and that does count for a lot. We’ll have to see how I feel about the next episode, but it’s looking like this may be my derp watch of the season.
Gatchaman Crowds Insight 2: Gatchaman has fully returned! We’re already diving deep into new conflicts this week, with Hajime’s positivity and Rui’s horizontal ethos being contrasted against an increasingly complicated and divisive world. Rui decided at the end of last season that he would trust everyone with Crowds, and that positivity would win out over trolls. This season, that optimism is being sorely tested, on both the individual and societal levels. Crowds, like the internet itself, is a massive power, and putting that in the hands of everyone basically guarantees some level of violence and backlash. VAPE isn’t really wrong here – when Rui’s “I believe in everyone!” is countered by “even me?”, the underlying question goes beyond one “villain” and to the question of “how can any society survive when any one member who disagrees with its foundations has the power to disrupt or destroy it?” Obviously no society is paradise for everyone, and you can’t just force people to act polite without undercutting the foundations of horizontal power.
Contrasted against that, we have Tsubasa, the new Gatchaman with perhaps a bit more spirit than sense. Unlike Hajime, Tsubasa is temperamental and defiantly human, making mistakes and revealing she’s possibly not ready for the role she’s been given. But instead of “correcting” her behavior, Hajime is trying to help her grow with kindness, and making her feel more secure in her own space. How a solution like that will work on a societal level, we’ll have to see – at this point in the first season, the show had barely started to elaborate its argument, and so I’m sure there’ll be much yet to come that’ll complicate all of these positions. G-G-G-GATCHAMAAAAN.