Well hell, Wednesday’s here already. I already covered most of the prior week’s episodes in my retrospective, but that didn’t hit any second episodes, so I guess I’ll make a week in review or something. Fortunately, this week’s second episodes were all definitely worth talking about – in fact, going forward, I’m guessing these posts will be getting pretty mountainous. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is hitting new peaks, My Hero Academia is demonstrating exactly what I find compelling about its premise, and Joker Game is shaping up to be a stylish and legitimately engaging thriller. This season is ridiculous. Let’s get right to it.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure pulled off what is easily one of the best episodes the show has ever seen, in any season, ever. Seriously. The first episode of Diamond is Unbreakable was fun enough, and demonstrated that this season will likely have stronger art design and direction than Stardust Crusaders, but this episode was a goddamn masterpiece. The entire house invasion sequence between the JoJos and Angelo was thrilling and beautifully framed, from the various warped-perspective horror angles to the fantastic transitions. Energetic scene transitions ran up and down this episode, really – there was a great moment where Jotaro put down a phone and slid into the car of the next scene, and another where the camera pulled gracefully back through Josuke’s house to shift perspectives while creating a strong sense of physical space. Plus the color work continues to be distinctive, and both the fight and solution here were inventive and ridiculous. If Diamond is Unbreakable can consistently stay anywhere near this good, we might legitimately have a contender for best JoJo season.
My Hero Academia’s second episode was definitely slow (it’s clear they’re adapting the manga at an intentionally conservative space, and I’m guessing we’ll get a S2 announcement before long), but it also demonstrated how well this material is suited to anime, and more than that, it was just a perfect expression of the philosophy that makes this story and heroes by extension so compelling. “I smile to show the pressure of heroes and to trick the fear inside me” was the line – all through this episode, All Might acted as a living demonstration of how the essence of heroism isn’t power, it’s personal strength in the face of fear.
As I mentioned in my preview guide post, that philosophy actually kind of explains what I find appealing in idol shows, too – the idea of people who are willing to overcome their personal fears and handicaps in order to inspire others to do the same is just inherently compelling. And honestly, that might also go a ways towards explaining why One Punch Man does so little for me – it cares almost nothing for what makes heroes thematically compelling, and is mostly about a bunch of self-absorbed people with really strong powers showing off. I guess there’s a market for that, but it doesn’t really do much for me.
And finally, Joker Game’s second episode was definitely strong enough for me to pick up the show for weekly viewing, at least for now. Adding some texture to Sakuma’s personality and perspective went a very long way towards making both this particular story and its larger world more compelling – I was worried this was going to be wholly apolitical betrayal/counter-betrayal theatrics, but it’s looking like the D Agency is actually going to be something of a team, which gives me a point of entry to hold onto. A series of betrayals only carry dramatic weight if you had some investment in the pre-betrayal relationships, after all. There were also no scenes here that felt as questionably written as some of the poker room discussions, so I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the show’s direction.