Fall 2015 – Week 11 in Review

This week in anime wasn’t the best, I’m sad to say. My reliable favorites were reliable-to-great, but… well, there are only two of those. And everything else kinda let me down. I feel like I’ve more or less set myself up for disappointment this season – instead of accepting that it’s a bad season and relying wholly on backlist shows to get me through, I’ve basically just assumed a handful of shows are permanently in “dud episodes” and keep feeling disappointed when they consistently prove their dud episodes are actually just their normal episodes. It’s no way to live, frankly, and I don’t actually know if next season offers any escape – considering how tentative my excitement is for basically everything on my preview list, it seems pretty likely that Monogatari and Iron-Blooded Orphans will be next season’s best shows, too.

But I don’t mean to depress you. Even if this week’s shows were bad (and even when it comes to what I was reviewing for ANN, they were), that doesn’t mean I don’t have stuff to say about ’em. And hey, not every show tripped on its face – in fact, Owarimonogatari pulled off an episode that I’d probably count among the best of the year. So let’s put on a brave face, assume a stiff upper lip, and contort your muscles in any other way you feel appropriate as we RUN ‘EM DOWN.

Starting off right at the top, Owarimonogatari pulled off its second top-tier episode this week, matching the Sodachi confession episode with a conversation between Kanbaru and Shinobu that ranks among the series’ best. This episode was a tremendous celebration of both of these characters; Kanbaru brought her very aggressive personality to bear on a conflict that mirrored her own regrets, and Shinobu was forced to acknowledge the insecurities that always dictate her actions. The two parried and riposted through a debate that worked in both a personal and general thematic sense, and the last few scenes of Shinobu throwing her own doubts at Kanbaru felt like one of the most genuinely intimate moments the show has ever created. These characters are great, this scene was great, this show is great. No matter what else is airing, we are lucky to still have Monogatari.


In contrast, The Perfect Insider jumped the shark as proudly as any show possibly could this week, wholly leaning into both the absurdity of its underlying mystery and the nonsense philosophy expressed by Souhei and Magata. Souhei’s been a very silly man from the very beginning of this series, but my constant hope was that the show realized this, and would eventually push back against his ideals. But this episode treated both his philosophy and Magata’s “solution” as if they were profound truths, and not just ridiculous contrivances of a self-serious but ultimately adolescent narrative. There have been good things all throughout Perfect Insider, but in the end, it seems like the show wasn’t actually a backwards-looking reflection on attitudes like Souhei and Magata’s – it was a present-moment idolization of them, a story as caught up in their meaningless monologues as they were. It’s a damn shame.

The Perfect Insider

Beautiful Bones had yet another one of those episodes that utterly fades from the mind upon conclusion, leaving me legitimately struggling to remember anything that happened. I do remember that it was the start of another multi-part story, and that this will likely be the concluding series. Ah right, there was also a scene where Shoutarou commented on how Sakurako actually seemed committed to this mystery. The teacher was involved, and the female classmate gave them a hint… the evil painter guy! Yeah, the evil painter guy’s also in this one, fedora included. And he… was there another evil painting? No, it was about the three girls who used to be friends, and the two who fought over him. That’s it! Woohoo, go me.

Beautiful Bones is bad.

Beautiful Bones

One Punch Man had another pretty okay I guess episode this week, as Saitama punched his way through a whole shipful of aliens and his Class S companions fought one hella tough alien outside. With none of the emotional/thematic heft of that one great Mumen Rider episode, One Punch Man very easily falls into a ho-hum pattern, broken up only by the occasional bright spots of great animation. There were little hints of ideas about Class S heroes not being great team players or lateral thinkers, but we already knew that; most of this episode was really just a standard shounen battle on the one end, and Saitama’s style of one-joke non-battle on the other.

Saitama basically stands as the antithesis to dramatic storytelling, and none of the heroes involved in the other battle were particularly interesting (guy who punches, guy who pokes, guy who slices, guy who bats), so there just wasn’t much to grab onto here. The brightest spots were the scenes featuring one of the psychics on either side of the battle – both of them had actual personalities, and both of them had powers beyond “hit stuff really hard.” One Punch Man has been an enjoyable enough ride, but unless we’re about to steer into some segment that actually makes the show dramatically interesting, I think one season was just about right for this concept.

One Punch Man

Utawarerumono improved from last week’s episode, but still didn’t really approach “good.” There were certainly good things about this episode – I thought the running joke of Kuon and her friends just chilling at the noodle stand through all the drama was solid, and I appreciated the show using one of its silly episodic adventures to actually develop some of the existing characters. But in the end, this was still one of Utawarerumono’s endless episodic adventures, overlong and overly reliant on silly faces and generally just a block of animation that could very easily be skipped. I’m feeling kind of committed to this show at this point, but I really shouldn’t be – there have been far more drop-worthy episodes than good ones, and at this point, even if it shifts to actual storytelling, why should I have any reason to expect it’ll be good at that? I should probably just drop this now and spend that time watching more actually good current project shows.


And in order to end this sad criticism sandwich on a positive note, Iron-Blooded Orphans had another fine episode this week, though it was kind of an odd one. Most of this show’s material feels solidly in the character-drama area I associate with Okada, but occasionally we get stuff like this week’s two major villains, both of whom fell into the “what is this ridiculous character doing in this show” style I associate with stuff like Turn A Gundam. But the villains were really only an antagonistic device, and that was intentional – the leaders of these pirates were a higher force with their own motives using Human Debris as, well, human debris.

Instead of focusing on the level of characters who actually have underlying philosophical disagreements, Iron-Blooded Orphans tends to prioritize the characters several rungs down the chain – the characters who are pitted against each other by circumstance and necessity, tools of larger games. And these characters still want to feel a sense of agency, but they can’t direct their anger at the true sources of their pain – and so they make villains of people stuck in the same position on the opposite side, emphasized in this episode both through the Gjallarhorn tag-on committed to fighting Tekkadan and the Human Debris who swore to get revenge for his comrade. They’re focusing their anger in the wrong directions, but what else can they do?

Well, “Tekkadan” is pretty much the answer the show’s presenting. Tekkadan’s emphasis on family transcends class division, making bonds between Kudelia, the Turbines, and all of Orga’s companions. In response to Akihiro’s doubts, Orga articulates the exact point all these frustrated subordinates need to hear – “your brother didn’t wish to become our enemy, right?” It’s rarely the people forced to pull the trigger who plot to “fix” the world.

Iron-Blooded Orphans

Outside of the weekly episodes, I also watched and wrote up the first three episodes of Hyouka this week, which was a goddamn breath of fresh air. Hyouka is gorgeous, Hyouka is carefully constructed, Hyouka is full of nuance and character and grace. The cast is a joy to be around, the writing is understated but sharp, the character animation and shot framing is wonderful, the humor is actually, consistently effective. It’s just a perfect warm breeze of a show, full of riches but also so easy to watch through. I’m really hoping you guys keeping supporting these writeups, because I’m certainly loving my return to Hyouka’s world.


And on the opposite end of what media can achieve, I also watched the entirety of Dragonar Academy, which is a legitimate contender for the worst show I’ve ever seen. There was just nothing good about Dragonar Academy – it failed spectacularly even as a basic light novel power fantasy adaptation, and its failures beyond that in terms of aesthetics and worldview and basically everything else just boggle the mind. Dragonar Academy made me feel sorry for other tentacle porn, which clearly don’t deserve a reputation based on shows as terribly constructed as this one. I’m sorry tentacle porn, I’m sorry light novels have done this to you.

12 thoughts on “Fall 2015 – Week 11 in Review

  1. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that Iron Blooded Orphans is not the show I thought, and hoped, it was going to be.

    I wanted Orga to be the bad guy. I wanted him to be so focused on his own climb up the ladder to power that he didn’t see that Mika had started to learn about fighting for a cause, by being around Kudelia, until it was too late and his attempts to re-exert control resulted in Mika being caught between his loyalty to Orga and his own beliefs. I was looking forward to that, but since they left Mars it’s gotten kind of… dull.

    Is it just me, or does nobody seem to have an ulterior motive? I don’t get the impression that anybody’s lying or misrepresenting their goals. Turbines and Teiwaz don’t appear to be using Tekkadan as pawns in some larger scheme against Gjallarhorn in an interesting way (not that Gjallarhorn seem to be up to much themselves, since giving up their pursuit a few episodes ago).

    I guess I’d just have liked to see more conflict both within Tekkadan (as Orga maybe moves the group in a direction not everyone agrees with) and between Tekkadan and its partners.

    And would it kill them to give the women something to do other than cook for the men and coo at babies?

    • Teiwaz is using Tekkadan, but they’re being upfront about it. I’m pretty sure they’re not expected to survive the upcoming conflict with Gjallarhorn, but if that can work in Teiwaz’s favor then what motive is there to manipulate them? Let them die with glory as honorable blood brothers, why not?

      I think this ties into the larger themes that Bobduh just hinted at: you don’t NEED a clash of ideals or misguided ambitions to create conflict, because just getting by in a world that makes that difficult is a conflict on its own. The systems in place make conflict and suffering inevitable for the majority of people, despite the best intentions of everyone involved (bizarre pirates and Hitler mustaches aside). They’re all cogs in a horrible machine, completely aware of that, but powerless to change it. Which shifts the focus to what they can do to make the best of it.

    • No one has an ulterior motive? Do you just not pay attention every time Fumitan is on the screen looking conflicted that Kudelia keeps placing trust in her? Every scene with her since they got on the ship has screamed betrayal.

  2. I liked the joke where Saitama said he was lost and went the opposing way while making a funny face. Though the deadpan expression while the boss was showing his power was kinda weird to me, it felt out of place and unfunny this time for some reason?.. Still think the show is a lot of fun but that’s maybe cause I’m watching it with my sister whos really cheerfull about it. She’s also super cheerful about Gundam, really helps the dramatic tension heh.

    This perfect insider episode felt like the show was actually more about the mystery then the characters. I mean the character reasoning was so ridiculous, thought it was alright ”how she did it” wise.

    • I’ve actually had a similar experience with One Punch Man – I find it pretty meh on my own, but when I’m watching it with a friend who enjoys it more, it tends to be a more fun experience.

  3. Next season offers the escape, should you be smart enough to take it, which you noted in that very same paragraph – backlog shows. I should do more of that myself, but did move in that direction this season.

    About IBO, I sighed a bit about how heavy-handed it is. How everything keeps hammering “FAMILY” at you at the top of its voice, and how last episode we first heard of Akihiko’s brother and here he is, the very next episode. Mari Okada doesn’t do subtle at all. At least it’s a fine story/theme overall, but the last 2-3 episodes felt very “gross”, as opposite to “subtle”.

  4. Wait, there’s still gonna be monogatari next season? I thought Kizu was the only thing coming around in the winter?

    As for IBO, I still see tons of people waiting for Tekkadan members to get off’d after all of the “death flags”. At this point, I’m actually still not sure if more than half of the Tekkadan/Turbines group will live to see episodes 26-50.

    • an ONA series adapting the Koyomimonogatari side-stories is set to air next season, but that’s all the Monogatari I’m aware of outside of Kizu.

  5. Well, that’s mainly because you’re not watching Haikyuu! and Durarara (for next season.)

    Boku dake ga Inai Machi should be great.
    I’m both excited and worried about it since I read the manga before hand. The manga is good, and the team seems good enough to makes the best out of it, but I’m still worried (then fact that it still hasn’t ended up yet had some worries…)

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