This week in anime was a week in anime. We’re entering that stretch of the season where shows often become kinda tough to write about – they’ve established a firm rhythm and personality at this point, but they’re not quite into the leadup to the climax, and so episodes can oftentimes just be described as “pretty much like the last episode, I guess.” Even a show like Konosuba, one of this season’s most inconsistent wildcards, is now at least becoming steady in its inconsistency. There were some slight dips and slight rises among individual shows, but everything is at the moment falling within the margin of error of its existing expectations. That doesn’t mean things are impossible to talk about – that just means I have to work harder to find good points of interest. So sit there and appreciate my hard work as I run this week down!
Konosuba‘s latest episode didn’t have a standout sequence as strong/depressing as Aqua’s time in the cage, but was still reliably funny, and actually let the whole cast work together for once. MC-kun is still one of the most annoying variables in the show, as his smug straight man routine is generally more offputting than funny, but all of the other members of the cast got to have fun fighting the Dullahan, and even Darkness seemed pretty reasonable this week. Bits like Aqua and Megumin conspiring to blow up the castle demonstrated how the cast doesn’t just exist relative to the audience, but actually has an internal chemistry at this point, which is important. And I feel like a fair amount of this show is carried solely by Aqua and Megumin’s voice actresses – even if the jokes themselves aren’t great, Aqua’s wild yammering and Megumin’s collapsing noises are funny all by themselves. Konosuba is a pretty simple show, but it’s still keeping me entertained for twenty minutes a week.
Active Raid has its absolute worst episode this week, an episode that played into some melodramatic genre space in a way that came off as more bizarre than funny or engaging. The show simultaneously seemed to want the audience to care about its episodic drama and also acknowledge what a silly story it was telling, and those two desires only pulled against each other. It is possible to make a show that’s simultaneously a comedy and a legitimate drama (I mean, Shirobako does exist), but if your load-bearing dramatic variables are the same ones you’re making fun of, you’re gonna have a hard time of it. As is, the ultimate effect of this episode was that it felt like the creators cared as little about this story as I did. A weird place to be.
This week’s Dagashi Kashi was another episode of Dagashi Kashi. I mean, what is there to say about the show? It’s a generally pleasant slice of life stuffed with largely inoffensive jokes and characters who are nice enough people to spend time with. The show isn’t some aesthetic paragon of its genre, so it doesn’t really leave much room for critique – as much as I enjoy likable people enjoying their time together with no real conflicts, it’s not the sort of content that demands thorough analysis. I continue to like the somewhat understated ways the show builds and implies things about its characters, and continue to enjoy my time with the show overall. That’s about all there is to it.
Grimgar also maintained its (surprise!) usual pace this week, as the team learned the ending of the story of Mary’s past and then tried to figure out what exactly to do with that information. Ranta’s an asshole, but his complaints in light of Mary’s tragic backstory were actually pretty on-point for at least one specific personality. It’s true that knowing Mary is pulling away from her teammates for understandable reasons doesn’t necessarily change the facts of their engagements – they’re suffering too, and if she can’t work together with the group, that’s ultimately all that matters. But cooler heads prevailed in the end, and Haru was able to pull the group a little closer together by giving Mary the full context of their own problems.
Mary’s behavior here also seems refreshingly believable; just like the main characters we’ve come to know didn’t all eventually just get over their friend’s death, so too does Mary not change overnight after learning the group doesn’t actually resent her. You can’t easily change the person your experiences have made you, and the past is always something you’re going to carry with you. It’s still the most frustrating thing to have a show that otherwise treats its characters with such respect indulge in all these friggin’ butt shots, but Grimgar continues to be extremely good at the things that make it a compelling show.
ERASED experienced a welcome return to form this week, with the bad taste of two outsourced episodes being washed away by one that embodied everything the show does best. Not only did the show return to Satoru’s childhood, which is just far more compelling overall than his present day trials, but this episode was also full of great transitions and beautiful shots and that strong sense of crisp atmosphere that makes the show unique. I know this probably isn’t that surprising, but I’d be very much up for a show that offers ERASED’s strong visceral take on either childhood or adolescence without the need for cliffhangers and blood-red eyes and all the rest of that stuff. The show’s genre beats are far less compelling than its aesthetic fundamentals, and it’s a credit to the execution that I’m enjoying ERASED this much in spite of not really trusting its actual storytelling.
And for a bit of super-positive predictability, Rakugo Shinju continues to be the season standout, matching its excellent formal qualities to suitably understated storytelling. Rakugo Shinju basically presents the opposite case of ERASED – while the ways ERASED sometimes embraces schlock thriller beats demonstrates a lack of confidence in its own storytelling, Rakugo Shinju never uses more dramatic elaboration than necessary, knowing its shot framing and plot fundamentals are strong enough that the audience can infer every necessary turn. That was clear all throughout this episode, from the way Bon and Shin’s relationship was contrasted against Bon and Miyokichi’s to the unhappy truths revealed through Bon’s meetings with his master. Bon has finally found his own rakugo, but he still desires the validation of his master, even to the point where he’ll betray his adopted family if that will make his master happy. Bon’s initial conflict has been settled at this point, but all that means is we’re now steering directly towards the conflict that destroyed his happiness. Like most great tragedies, Rakugo Shinju proceeds with a stately, sorrowful sense of inevitability.