We had a fresh new crop of anime roll in this week, and I’m here to sort out the top tier cartoons from the rest of the cargo. It won’t be easy this time – there were plenty of great episodes this week across the board, with a wide variety of genres and favorites pulling off excellent performances. The Lost Village’s fourth episode more or less cemented it as a ridiculous semi-classic, while Concrete Revolutio had another stunning vignette, and Flying Witch maintained its clean streak of strong episodes. This is the best season I’ve personally had in about a year, and I’m enjoying it to the fullest. Let’s dive right into this pile of nonsense and RUN ‘EM DOWN!
The Lost Village kicked into overdrive this week, featuring a fifteen minute debate that pretty much exemplified why this show is so ridiculous and why that is so great. Lovepon got a bunch of excellent moments, but the classic running jokes weren’t the only stars here – there was talk of seeing ghosts and clarifications on the exact size of the giant Mitsumune, confusion over who was actually dead and comparisons of life philosophies. The Lost Village is your extremely drunk friend who is absolutely intent on telling you a story while continuously losing their train of thought, except actually funny. It’s so clever in its consistent betrayal of conversational expectations that I feel pretty confident it’s trying to be that way – you don’t just accidentally come up with nonsense this good, this stuff has be crafted as carefully as anything else. I’m enjoying the show thoroughly now, and kind of amazed that it even exists. I guess the brand recognition of Mizushima + Okada means these people just get to make whatever the hell they want, and the result is glorious.
Flying Witch had one more solid episode in an unbroken string of charming everyday adventures. This week’s episode fell more into the overtly magical category, but Inukai was such an immediately likable character that her predicament didn’t really feel like it fell outside of the show’s usual tonal wheelhouse. And “witches get drunk together and one of them accidentally transforms into a dog” is such a perfectly Flying Witch premise, anyway. Chinatsu also got a bunch of solid one-liners and incidental jokes here, making for an episode that was actually more consistently entertaining than last week’s pleasant pheasant adventure. We’re kind of running out of opening song characters at this point, so I’m interested in seeing what the show will do once its cast has actually assembled.
I wasn’t expecting this, but Kabaneri hit that shark jump pretty much dead-on this week. This was a much slower episode than the first two, which was already a dangerous choice, and in contrast to the earlier “we’re going to get murdered by zombies” conflict (which is at least understandable), this one tried to ride on Titan-style “how can we trust these half-zombies.” Of course, unlike Titan, this confrontation didn’t come about in the middle of an ongoing battle, and Mumei both understood her own nature and was perfectly in control of her faculties. You’d think those differences would let her defuse this conflict pretty much immediately – so in order to keep things tense, the show simply had everyone act really, really stupid. The train passengers stupidly refused to listen to Mumei, and Mumei stupidly declined to actually explain anything. Nearly all of this episode’s conflict was an escalation built on improbably stupid actions, interspersed with Ikoma’s “because I was scared as a child, my sister got murdered” backstory. And then it ended with a pregnant woman getting turned into a zombie and stabbed with two swords in the stomach.
I can handle Araki’s stuff when it’s just pure action – pure action can be entertaining for its own sake. But by slowing down and letting his works’ other qualities take over, this episode ended up being a sometimes tedious and sometimes actively unpleasant journey. These characters aren’t just unlikable and thinly written, the way the show frames their actions as either good or bad reflects a worldview predicated on constant antagonism, a genuine love of violence (Mumei punching Ikoma is cool! Fountains of blood are cool!), and the scorning of sensitivity altogether. None of that stuff really gels with what I generally seek in media, so this may be the end of my trip on Araki’s Wild Ride.
My Hero Academia had another reasonable genre episode this week, much like the third one. The fact that they’re adapting the manga so very slowly is definitely hurting here and there; not only does it make individual episodes feel pretty slow, but the setup material in My Hero Academia is just much less compelling than everything that follows. It sticks to absolute shounen fundamentals for its first volume, and we haven’t even left that volume yet. The show is still fundamentally appealing in a variety of ways (it’s nice to finally meet the class, and the various ways they break their physical tests are all fun to see), but it’s tough to deal with half a season of “I can’t wait for us to get to the good stuff.” That said, I was caught completely off guard when this episode suddenly ended, so it’s certainly making for a very watchable production. And also Midoriya’s mom is a treasure.
Macross Delta was about par this week, meaning it was a reasonable scifi adventure piece elevated by small doses of charm and lovely art design. I really love the various worlds of this universe, and also appreciate that this show understands when to really lean into a moment that doesn’t necessarily serve a strict narrative purpose. I’m not sure I’d even consider this episode’s finale “successful,” in that its weak CG flight was a lot less breathtaking than it was likely hoping to be, but I can appreciate what they were going for. What I find less compelling is what I’ve basically always had issue with – Hayate is a selfish and naive dude that the show finds far more charming than I do. Basically any time a character dunks on Hayate, I’m nodding along with them, but then the camera somehow gives Hayate the win. Am I really supposed to find “I want to be able to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it, including screwing around in a cutting edge fighter jet” appealing as a character motivation? The dude is an ass.
This week’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was another great one, and great in a very unexpected way. I was expecting this season to improve on the Stands, and been impressed to see the direction and art design also get a steep upgrade, but actual emotional resonance? The finale of the Nijimura brothers arc managed to pull off some, if not heartbreaking, at least legitimately endearing moments. I really liked the way their story used the significance of Dio’s existence – while part three focused on him as an overarching threat, here we simply got the story of a few people tangentially connected to his presence, whose lives were destroyed almost accidentally. On top of that, the older Nijimura sibling ended up possessing some real complexity; not a forgivable man, but also not a monster, expressing a scorned humanity in his treatment of both of his family members. Add all that to the way this episode once again made great visual use of Okuyasu’s creepy house, and you’ve got a really impressive episode.
Not really much to say about Luluco this week – frankly, it’s probably better to talk about this show in several-episode chunks. About three discreet things happen in any one episode, and this time, those things were “Luluco argues with her hot space mom, space patrol chief makes a bunch of great justice-based pronouncements, and suddenly Luluco’s town is flying.” That about covers it!
In contrast to last week’s Concrete Revolutio, which was a small-stakes story focused on illustrating the trials of one regular human, this week’s episode went as big as humanly possible, featuring an underground god and almost resulting in the destruction of humankind altogether. There was a lot to dig into in this one, from the believably easy time Devilo had amassing followers to the fractured politics of the police force. Those police officers were clearly the biggest losers here here. The episode established early on that the ostensible “act of aggression” by the underground people was actually just an unrelated tragedy, turned into a political event for purely propaganda reasons. But of course, the police force are both not necessarily aware of that and also clearly not interested in engaging with the underground, and so through their actions, they almost end up prompting the war they’re ostensibly responding to. Their battle with Devilo’s retainer was a great visual highlight, and one that seemed like a clear reference to Angel’s Egg. Like in that film, the angry men here throw their weapons at the shadow of a great fish, but were only able to destroy their own city.
Of course, in the end, the police were only able to mildly annoy the retainer of creatures far beyond human understanding. While the police were clearly in the wrong, Jaguar’s position wasn’t all that much better, and Jiro was also at his worst here. Having been removed from the bureau, the limitations of Jiro’s beliefs are becoming more and more clear – he wants to “help superhumans,” but a peaceful society requires compromise between conflicting “rights,” and just like in the last season’s finale, Jiro has repeatedly proven himself incapable of grappling with that. Faced with all of this small-minded squabbling, Devila could only laugh, as she eclipsed the needs of a traditional body altogether. In the end, all of the humans here came off like fundamentally silly creatures.
Concrete Revolutio is currently only competing with itself. Its thoughtfulness, richness of perspectives, and imagination put it in a league all of its own. This second season has been sticking mostly to self-contained episodes so far, but if they remain as good as this, it’s still a classic in the making.
And rounding up the pack, Kiznaiver was definitely sketchier this week, or at least, not elevated by sequences as strong as last episode’s chase and final jump into traffic. There were still some nice conversations here and there (Yuta and Honoka got the highlight this time), and the show is still lovely to look at, but a quarter of the way in, it’s only becoming more questionable that everything will come together. Kiznaiver’s premise is incredibly arbitrary, which means it can’t ride on internal narrative drama – it has to be lifted by the writing of its characters. That can definitely work, but the show’s writing is pretty inconsistent, making it seem increasingly unlikely things will actually work out. It’s still a show I want to believe in, and its best moments are excellent in a way nothing else that’s airing is (it’s kind of lucky for Kiznaiver that it showed up in a season with no top-tier character show), but it’s a very checkered production.