It’s Wednesday again, which means time once more for the ol’ week in anime! And this week in anime was… well, it was a week in anime. Not really all that much to report, frankly – pretty much everything maintained a fairly even keel, acting more or less in the ways you’d expect them to act. The biggest outlier this time was The Perfect Insider, in that it was both very good and good in ways that defied standard expectations, but everything else existed within its expected parameters. That said, there’s still plenty of finer details to sift through, and I actually watched a fair amount of non-weekly anime this week, so don’t worry, I’ll make today’s tour worth your while. So pull up a comfortable chair and let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN.
One Punch Man pulled off a wildly imbalanced episode this week, which actually gives me plenty to talk about. On the negative side, one of the main characters of this episode, the Prisoner S-Rank hero, was basically one long, extended gay panic joke. One Punch Man’s humor has been very inconsistent throughout, with the first episode’s jokes getting repeated in longer and louder variations over and over, but it’s rarely gone into straight-up offensive otaku crap humor. This was offensive otaku crap humor, and a very length version of it at that. One Punch Man is many things, but I don’t think you can really count “classy” or “thoughtful” among them.
That said, there was plenty of more positive stuff here, too. The show has benefited enormously from expanding the focus away from Saitama himself. Saitama is good in small doses, and can occasionally lead a resonant scene when he’s not being put up against something he can just punch away, but as an action lead, he is very boring. Scattering the focus among a bunch of relatively interesting other heroes creates both a sense of scale and a sense of consequence, both of which were apparent in this week’s attack of the sea kingdom. Characters like Genos and Mumen Rider don’t have to work too hard to out-intrigue Saitama, but they’re all pretty fun to see doing their best. And there was even the barest glimmer of commentary again this week, with the confrontation between the sea king and four clearly outclassed “heroes” at the refugee station quietly implying a few sad things about how the presence of heroes impacts society both for the heroes who believe they must solve injustice and the common people who trust they’re taken care of.
On top of that, there was also just some very nice visual stuff here. Gross implications aside, the Prisoner battle made use of some wonderfully thick and cartoony lineart, and the sea king’s later form made for some nicely horrific panning shots. One Punch Man remains a very good-looking show.
In contrast, Beautiful Bones’ episode was about as simple as could be – it was just bad. So little actually happened that I’m having trouble even remembering details – I know Sakurako went to Shoutarou’s school, and I know she found some bones there, but… oh yeah, there was a science teacher, and he had a skeleton, and now the plot’s maybe going to start happening. I dunno. I feel like I’m the only person still watching this show, and it’s not like I care about it, so let’s just move on to, er…
Utawarerumono! Yeah, Utawarerumono. This show actually had a pretty fun episode this week, although its relatively high-stakes action still didn’t feel like the show is moving forward. Eight episodes in, everything happening here still feels pretty episodic, and I guess that’s just not what I was expecting from the show. Additionally, Haku being used as an undercover investigator into corruption in the imperial court feels a lot less believable than Haku wandering around the capital and accidentally fixing mechanical devices. I feel like I’ve been continuously readjusting my expectations downward with this show, and it’s not really the best feeling.
Fortunately Iron-Blooded Orphans remained steady, as it always does. This episode was obviously less action-packed than last week’s, but that’s basically the pattern at this point – an episode of high-stakes combat followed by an episode or two of sorting out the worldbuilding and pushing character journeys along. Last week’s battle shifted to negotiations here, where Orga found himself bartering from a position of clear weakness. Orga’s desperation and his opponent’s confidence led to some nice scenes where Orga finally lost the mask he’d been relying on, and ended up admitting his very personal reasons for wanting to keep the team together. Between that and Mikazuki’s sad “I have to get stronger or you’ll leave me behind,” it’s obvious that each of them are creating strength through the appearance of strength for the other’s sake, and that though this relationship has gotten them this far, it’s unlikely to be healthy in the long term. I’m looking forward to the moment when one or both of them will have to appear vulnerable when the other is watching.
Owarimonogatari improved respectably from last week, though we’re still not approaching Sodachi-tier heights. This arc just feels much more like an “Araragi arc” than the last did, which comes down at least in part to the fact that his companions this time are early-series Kanbaru and friggin’ Yotsugi. I’m realizing Yotsugi might actually be the worst companion for Araragi – he tends to make lolicon jokes with Mayoi, but Yotsugi actually enables the lolicon crap herself. That was in full display this episode, through that lengthy sequence that included pretty much every shot of Yotsugi’s legs and feet that a Yotsugi leg/foot fetishist could conceivably ask for.
And yet, in spite of that, I actually overall liked this episode. The stuff about Araragi wanting to shield Kanbaru and Shinobu from the trials he willingly throws himself into felt very sad and true, and this episode conveyed that tragedy through just a couple offhand lines. And Araragi’s conversations with Kanbaru were pretty endearing as well, and segued nicely into Gaen’s hinting that Kanbaru has probably inherited some of her mother’s power. Considering Hanamonogatari has been framed as the last chronological arc of the series (at least according to my understanding), it seems unlikely that this will be a slow buildup to Kanbaru as a general apparition-busting force. And that’s not Kanbaru’s scene, anyway – Kanbaru is her own person with her own issues, and it’s really only Araragi and Hanekawa who seem specifically compelled to engage with this world. So I’m guessing this arc’s final episodes will reap some immediate Kanbaru ass-kicking rewards, and combining that with the strong focus on Shinobu’s past means I’ve got every reason to look forward to the episodes to come.
Finally, The Perfect Insider basically unloaded all of its primed weapons this week, springing big mystery revelations and creative visual setpieces and key character insights one after another. Souhei, Moe, and Magata all got very strong character-building scenes, and Moe’s journey through Magata’s dream machine formed the show’s easy standout visual setpiece so far. Not only was Souhei nicely humanized through his conversation with Magata’s sister, even his relationship with Moe was made more compelling through the revelation that he’s basically always been a supportive family member for her. It doesn’t matter that he’s a crappy love interest – to her, he’s the only person she’s got. That insight into Moe’s isolation nicely dovetails into Magata’s own past, making for a very graceful little thematic character web. Perfect Insider certainly has some rough edges, but it’s putting a really strong foot forward leading into its final act.
Airing shows aside, I also burned through Symphogear GX this week, which was… well, certainly Symphogear, but perhaps not quite as Symphogear as the last couple seasons. In contrast to G, which basically doubled down on both the show’s incoherence and its glorious energy, GX felt more reserved, and definitely more interested in telling an actual story. Its villain had a motivation and even some flashback scenes, and its narrative took the time to include specific personal issues for each of the protagonists, with some of them even reflecting off each other. Did this end up working? Well… sometimes? Maybe half of these personal dramas worked out alright, and if the show had ended well, I’d consider this overall a success. But the ending actually felt pretty tedious, and relied much too heavily on tricks the show had already pulled in its first two seasons. Plus, the Autoscorers, one of this season’s easy best additions, didn’t even figure in to the finale. So while I appreciate the effort, I think Symphogear will have to achieve a better mix of coherence and absurdist grandeur in its inevitable fourth season.
And saving the best for last, I also finally got around to Wolf Children this week, spurred on by my shiny new writeup-commissioning system. And Wolf Children was… well, basically perfect. A wonderful, heart-rending personal story, full of great sequences with essentially no dialogue and characters you can’t help but fall in love with. Wolf Children was exactly my kind of slice of life, the slice of life that acknowledges the harshness of the world as it is, but loves it anyway. I have nothing but good things to say about this movie, and I’m glad I got a chance to write about it. Well done, Hosoda. Well done.