Aw dang it’s the week in review what the fuck do we even have to talk about. Well actually, there’s plenty to talk about now; it’s a relatively new season, there are far more legitimately watchable shows than The Season That Shall Not Be Named, and last week’s awkward halfway point between preview week and the usual fare means we’ve got a sizable glut of anime to get through. I actually surprised myself last Sunday – I was doing my usual accounting of what was about to air, and suddenly realized I had three friggin’ shows to choose between for my first watch, all of which I actually wanted to see. Following a season where “you know what, this snake girl is actually pretty cool” was close to the top end of anime discourse, that’s a pretty nice place to be. Between Owarimonogatari, The Perfect Insider, and… well, I guess any more favoritism than that would be telling. So let’s get started this list of ‘well friggin’ crap these might actually be worth watching’ shows. Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!
First up, Iron-Blooded Orphans improved for a third straight episode this week, and that’s starting from a base of one of the best premieres of the season. This show is just confident as all hell right now – all of its many pieces are being used well, it’s devoting exactly the right amount of time to building up its characters, and the plot is progressing at a very solid pace. There’s no slow baiting of narrative events here; the coup that was mentioned last week is here carried out without an unnecessary word, and the “glorious demise” of the title is an action setpiece that sells itself both on its execution and on the strong contrast between Crank and Mikazuki.
It was nice to see the disconnect of the aristocracy here being represented not through the naive princess (who’s already becoming a solid pillar of the story), but through the distant pity of a man who thinks conflicts can still be resolved through noble duels. In contrast to Crank’s fancy rhetoric, Orga puts things very simply: “Mikazuki is going to kill that man.” The themes and character beats (like the wonderful use of Mikazuki’s charm) are executed gracefully, without drawing attention to themselves. Iron-Blooded Orphans is a polished production with a story to tell.
On the low end, Beautiful Bones’ second episode mostly just confirmed my worst suspicions about the show. It’s likely going to stick in mystery procedural territory for a while, and as a mystery procedural, it’s just not very good. This comes down in equal parts to the mysteries not being that compelling and the dialogue being occasionally atrocious. I’m not really a person who watches mysteries for the mystery part (in stuff like Hyouka, Perfect Insider, or even Monogatari, I’m really more focused on what we’re learning about the characters), but if I were, I can’t imagine I’d be getting much out of these “and then Sakurako just makes up an explanation that’s true” scenarios. And regarding the stuff I do care about, Sakurako’s dialogue is just too poorly constructed for me to invest in these characters. It’s bad news all around.
It certainly can’t help that I’m also watching the far superior Perfect Insider, which worked hard to maintain its very distinctive appeal in its second episode. Things are still moving slowly, but we’ve now arrived at a classic remote island mystery setup, and all the pieces are in place for some kind of bizarre turn of events at Magata’s lab. Of course, as I said above, I don’t generally watch mysteries for the mystery – I watch them for the everything else. And Perfect Insider’s “everything else” is still very strong. Souhei remains an insufferable but very recognizable type of academic, and the way the show keeps framing Moe’s feelings towards him make it clear that she’s intended to be the one we’re actually following. The contrast between Moe and Magata was made clear through some nice cross-cutting scenes this week, with this week’s flashbacks only offering more charged directions for the show to go. Perfect Insider is still in its preamble stage, but the writing and style are so compelling that I’m already pretty hooked.
This week’s One Punch Man felt like a step down from the first two, unfortunately. It’s still a fine show, but both in its humor and animation, there weren’t nearly as many highlights here as in the first or second ones. On the humor side, a lot of the jokes here felt a bit like retreads of prior gags – having a cold open that essentially repeated the origin story subversion from last week wasn’t great, and the episode’s final joke felt incredibly telegraphed and overplayed. It’s clear this episode was covering a much smaller amount of material, which meant its humor fell into that trap where manga gags that work fine over the space of a page or two feel interminable when stretched into full minutes of dialogue. On the aesthetic side, the one fantastic animation highlight was Geno’s brief standoff with Joseph Kabuto – outside of that, the episode mostly just rode on its great use of sketchy, almost chalk-like shadows and impact lines. Hopefully the show gets back its speed and offhand humor after this, but if this marks a turn towards consistently matching the pacing of the manga, we could have a problem.
Utawarerumono, on the other hand, is basically nothing if not consistent. The look, the tone, the character interactions – all of that remained solid in this third episode, as the characters journeyed their way slowly towards the capital. You can really feel the JRPG roots of this show in the way it introduces all these characters in the course of a rambling, occasionally action-punctuated adventure. This week we met Rurutie, who seems unfortunately more generic than either Haku or Kuon, and Kokopo, Rurutie’s significantly more charismatic bird. Their early scenes, and the bandit raid that lent some structure to this episode, didn’t really make for the most thrilling immediate substance, but it’s clear Utawarerumono is going to be a long march towards a much larger story. As long as Haku and Kuon continue to have cute interactions, the show will be fine.
Finally, I’m enjoying the crap out of Owarimonogatari, but I’m also already writing the crap out of it, so for the week in review all I’ll add is that it’s a testament to how great Ougi is that I’m not immediately tired of her now that she’s become a stupid meme. Aside from that, I’m also happy to see the show has finally found a way to make an Araragi arc I can actually enjoy. Shove him outside his comfort zone, deny him someone like Senjougahara to banter with or Yotsugi to creep on, and the kid can do just fine. As long as his sisters don’t show up, this could turn out to be one of Monogatari’s better arcs!