Anime was pretty great this week! Basically anything would feel like an improvement after last week’s tragic slate of episodes, but this week’s selection was about as strong as you could hope for. ERASED didn’t magically fix the heavy fundamental damage its last episode caused, but it recovered as well as it could with an episode that mostly rediscovered the concept of subtlety. Dagashi Kashi had one of its best episodes so far, and Rakugo made up for its relatively grounded visual storytelling with some of the most endearing character moments of the season. Things are looking pretty okay in animeland at the moment. This may have been a relatively underwhelming season, but with Rakugo on track to become a legit classic, you can’t really call it a letdown.
ERASED made as graceful of a recovery as it could this week, jumping from Satoru’s near-death to his awakening from a coma many years in the future. Convenient comas and amnesia and all that aren’t generally the best devices, but I think this worked well enough; considering how much Satoru has impacted the past, there was no way he’d be able to leap back to his original timeline. And more importantly, the actual scenes of recovery and reunion here were handled very well – no big shocking reveals, just a lot of nice scenes demonstrating that he really was able to positively affect other peoples’ lives. Even the Yashiro material was handled with more grace here than last week, though jeez, that hamster speech sure was something. It is very possible to write a compelling character that’s also a sociopath, but when your first instinct is to dip into the “let’s murder some puppies for effect” well, you’re probably not going to get there.
Dagashi Kashi had a very solid episode this week, one that actually kinda surprised me with its understated diversity of gags. A lot of this week’s jokes came down to Hotaru’s funny actions, as usual, but they weren’t just wackiness for its own sake. The slight battle of Hotaru hiding under her blanket as Kokonotsu tempted her with dagashi was great, as was the sequence where Hotaru explained her own thought process in attempting to heal her mouth ulcer. And the show layered all of its many smaller gags in a frame that made strong use of the whole cast, staying closer to its slice of life tone than its absurdist “time to explore dagashi” one. Having Hotaru be sick was probably one of the best things the show could do for itself – her enthusiasm isn’t always funny, but when you put her out of her comfort zone, she becomes much more of an actual person. A nice addition to a mild but reasonably pleasant show.
Active Raid had an episode that was basically just functional. At this point, it feels unlikely the show’s finale is going to be a particular highlight, and for pretty predictable reasons. Active Raid’s Logos plot has always been one of its silliest elements, and holding back Mythos’ motivation as a last-minute reveal has prevented him from ever being more than a stereotype of a villain. When Active Raid has succeeded, it has been through digressing into episodic narratives that make the most of the show’s relatively compelling cast, or simply through focusing on Rin’s troubles (since both her character and her role in the narrative make her fundamentally more compelling than the show’s ostensible main leads). But the final arc is all Mythos versus Unit 8, and so we don’t really get to see the show at its best.
Konosuba finished off with an episode that was perfectly respectable Konosuba – a fair number of repetitive jokes that didn’t land, a smaller number of unique ones that did, plenty of moments that were carried wholly by the enthusiasm of the voice actors, and that’s about it. Like with Active Raid, Konosuba is basically a functional show more than anything special, something to watch because it’s watchable and this is a really sparse season. This episode did have far more animation highlights than the rest of the series, which was nice, and there were a number of good deadpan lines by Aqua and Megumin. Konosuba had more wit than the average light novel show, but it also demonstrated the fairly low ceiling of a show centered on an otaku stand-in character like Kazuma. It’ll be nice if anime eventually moves past these characters.
Grimgar maintained its long streak of excellent episodes, offering a mix of quiet moments and high action drama that brought some nice closure to Mary’s grief. Her “reunion” with the three teammates left behind essentially justified this whole journey into the mine; not only was it a unique and satisfying fight, but it tied the second half’s narrative together very well. The little bits of character work between Ranta and Haruhiro also clarified their relationship in a pretty graceful way, and the finale run from the mines was a solid dramatic demonstration of the teamwork the whole group has developed. The only real issue I had with this episode was the direction of the final tower-escape sequence – as usual, the show had trouble creating a sense of coherent space that could make the drama really land well. But that’s a problem the show’s always had, and everything else here was strong, so I can’t really complain.
And Rakugo has its eleventh straight great episode, to the surprise of no one. This episode was definitely unusual, though – instead of offering more of the gorgeous but almost stifling heavy drama we’ve been getting recently, this was actually a happy episode. Seeing Kikuhiko and Sukeroku’s daughter bonding over rakugo and pushing Sukeroku into action was one of the most genuinely joyful moments this often heavy show has offered. Konatsu was incredibly endearing from the start of the episode to the end, offering a desperately needed measure of optimism and happiness. And the overall dynamic between all three of these characters was strong as well, as Kikuhiko worked to pull Sukeroku’s life together and the three of them moved closer to possibly healing the wounds of the past. The episode’s climax, where the two friends riffed on each other in a performance perfectly suited to both of them, was a lovely reminder of how rewarding their art can be for both of them. I know things are surely about to fall apart, but it was nice that these three at least got this brief reprieve from tragedy.