Our strong spring season continued to chug merrily along this week, offering a few new highlights and a clunker or two, as you might expect. My weekly list has been paired down to the point where even the disappointing episodes are only mediocre entries in fundamentally strong shows, which feels like a real luxury (I dropped Macross Delta, incidentally, which I realized I hadn’t really been impressed with for a good 4-5 episodes). And both Kiznaiver and The Lost Village actually seem to be improving as they go along, which I wouldn’t expect from such shaky and unpredictable productions. Top that off with the reliably competent My Hero Academia and the consistently stunning Concrete Revolutio, and you’ve got a season that never fails to at least entertain. Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!
Kiznaiver had possibly its best episode this week, as we finally dug into Maki’s backstory in another bid to bring the group emotionally together. Some of the conversations between all of the characters were great, even if the base notes of this narrative were a little obvious. More importantly, the episode’s framing was fantastic from start to finish. The character blocking, layouts, use of color, use of shadow – all of it was excellent, all of it worked hard to create an episode that was both beautiful and imbued with a strong emotional throughline. Kobayashi seems like a director who’s very capable of bringing Okada’s usual theatrics to life, and I’m excited to see whatever he does next. Kiznaiver is a visually stunning debut.
Speaking of directors who are well-equipped for mirroring Okada, The Lost Village also had a standout episode this week, featuring a witch trial that actually jumped the hoop from intentionally terrible to legitimately effective. Mizushima is a very talented director, and the transition this week from “apathetic student film” to “propulsive thriller” was something to see. And The Lost Village ratcheted up the tension while also continuously embracing all the things that have made it great all along – more silly Lovepon moments, more incredible one-liners, and more wild segues of dramatic stakes. If The Lost Village can maintain this balance throughout its second half, it will actually be a far more impressive show than I’d expected even a week or two ago. Being very silly is great, but being very silly while also being legitimately thrilling is a true magic trick.
Speaking of magic tricks (hell yeah transitions go), Flying Witch had… well, not a very good episode. Sorry to stop the train short there, but this episode’s second half just leaned far too heavily on a joke that was not nearly strong enough to support the weight. In fact, watching Makoto and Chinatsu laugh and cry at nothing for minutes on end wasn’t just not very funny, it was legitimately abrasive, basically the last thing you want in a slice of life show. There were still plenty of fine moments here, but this was the show’s first real misstep. I’m sure it’ll be back to its usual antics soon.
My Hero Academia got to Bakugo’s backstory this week, and what a backstory it was. It turns out the motivation for Bakugo’s anger is… nothing, really, he’s just an asshole with an incredibly inflated sense of self-worth and no concern for other people. Sometimes teenagers are like that! Sometimes people in general are like that! The world is what it is.
I found Bakugo’s lack of sob-story justification just as satisfying as ever, but outside of that, this episode stretched out what should likely have been half an episode of material into twenty minutes of anime. They are really, really dragging out the story’s progress, likely in order to make sure this season ends with the conclusion of a specific arc, and it is significantly hampering the effectiveness of the material. I’m still enjoying the show plenty, but this is far from the best My Hero Academia adaptation that could exist.
That said, if all of My Hero Academia’s powers are being sucked into Concrete Revolutio, I can probably accept that. Conrevo had one more in a long string of excellent episodes this week, using the premise of an ice-frozen time traveler to extend the show’s reflections on the nature of heroism and justice three hundred years into the past. And just like the way this second season has generally meditated on the ways the Shinjuku riots failed to fundamentally change the nature of social conflict, it turns out seeking justice was messy and difficult and laden with personal baggage even in the distant past. Jiro talked about how the time traveler belonged in a more simple time, but his words were only a reflection of his own hopes. Things are tough all over.
Beyond the satisfying message of this episode and the many solid fights, there were also plenty of little gifts scattered throughout this one. I liked how the episode made strong use of a larger portion of the cast than recent episodes have been doing, giving characters like Jaguar and Shiba some time to shine. I liked our brief view into the presumably absurd everyday life of Shiba and Jiro, Detectives at Large. And I liked Kikko farting a giant pink cloud in Jiro’s face in order to shut him up. Concrete Revolutio has a wide array of excellent strengths.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure had a pretty low-key competent episode this week, not necessarily stunning with color design like last episode, but making strong use of Josuke and Koichi’s powers to attack a nontraditional problem. That’s really the key with Diamond is Unbreakable – the JoJos aren’t just smashing faces, they’re solving a variety of diverse challenges using a variety of unique powers. The base rules of Josuke and Koichi’s Stands make them well-suited to a wide array of situations – they’re not just “powerful,” they’re tricks that feel closer to the more unique Hunter x Hunter abilities than traditional powers. Obviously these later Stands must have been quite an influence for Togashi, and it’s great seeing Araki figure out all the ways he can put his solid core idea to use. Switching from Ripples to Stands has massively broadened the types of stories JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure can tell, and it seems like we’re only now seeing just what that means.
Finally, this week’s Space Patrol Luluco was essentially one massive Kill la Kill reference, from its life fibers and block letters to the friggin’ Ryuko theme song. I’m normally not a fan of pure reference comedy, since I feel like just saying “hey, here’s this other thing that exists” isn’t really a joke, but there were plenty of actual solid jokes wrapped up in this sequence, too. Either Imaishi or his writing partners have a much stronger grasp of snappy modern comedy than most anime writers, which shows in gags like the “Ogiblog” detailing the many alternate forms of Luluco’s hometown, or the way her internal monologue and then her final conversation with Delta played over the silly scifi plot happening in the background. It’s kind of interesting to think this is the same guy responsible for something as crass and one-note as Sex and Violence with Machspeed; Imaishi apparently never really grew up, but he’s still got some pretty high-quality comic sensibilities.