Anime was good this week! Anime was extremely good this week! ANIME WAS RIDICULOUSLY GOOD THIS WEEK. Kiznaiver and JoJo each had their best episodes of the season, with Kiznaiver offering probably my favorite episode of any of these shows, and JoJo basically just synthesizing all of the things that have made Diamond is Unbreakable great. Concrete Revolutio was right up there as well, as Urobuchi penned one of the most pointed episodes the show has ever seen. And the rest of the lineup was not far behind – only The Lost Village and Luluco had weaker episodes this week, and I’m sure they’ll both survive. That’s enough summary! Let’s get right to it!!!
This week’s My Hero Academia was ostensibly about Bakugo, and to tell the truth, the Bakugo material was actually pretty compelling. I wasn’t expecting that – not only has he been an unrepentant asshole up until now, but I don’t remember this sequence in the manga really doing much for my impression of his character. But here, I could definitely appreciate how fundamentally this training exercise wounded his pride. He’s a self-obsessed asshole, but he’s not a complete idiot – witnessing the choices and powers of his classmates, he’s forced to admit he’s far from the best, and it hurts. I like that this show can sell that conflict without actually making Bakugo a sympathetic character.
But Bakugo aside, what I most enjoyed about this episode was that it finally gave the rest of the class a little time to shine. The episode’s first half was basically an extended montage of Midoriya’s other classmates showing off their powers, and as we all know, cool powers are sweet. And then, when Midoriya returned from the infirmary, the show finally got to demonstrate that Iida and Uraraka aren’t his only reasonable classmates. Most of these kids are as friendly and well-adjusted as they are talented, and that’s really nice to see. It’s just fun to follow a show about characters who enjoy each others’ company.
Flying Witch experienced something of a tonal upgrade this week, as its reliably consistent upbeat mood was buoyed by strains of mystery and even danger in the episode’s second half. A combination of shot framing, smart lighting, unique music, and slightly off-kilter pacing made the presence of the ghost tangible even before Makoto went and made her visible. Aside from that, this episode had plenty of sequences of Chito being disgruntled and Nao being scared of frogs and all the other pleasures I’ve come to expect, so I’m once again left with basically nothing to complain about in this season’s most consistent show.
Kiznaiver had easily its best episode this week, ending Maki’s story with consistent grace and beauty. Understated, thoughtful storytelling and gorgeous, purposeful direction came together to make for a melancholy but quietly cathartic personal drama. It was all great visual motifs and relatable conversations and somber reflections in the rain, all that emotional jazz that really gets me going. It felt almost like an Inio Asano story, frankly – there was such a low-key power in its finale that I couldn’t help but be carried away. Even if the rest of the show falls apart, Maki’s two episode drama will count as an unimpeachable highlight of the season.
This week’s The Lost Village was unfortunately a bit too grounded for most of its run, more or less playing its own horror premise straight for everything outside of the great interrogation scene. That said, Mizushima’s a highly competent director, so nothing really dragged – it just lacked the manic spark that normally makes the show so special. The Lost Village has been extremely consistent about reestablishing its usual energetic tone, though, so I’m hopeful that next episode will be a return to form. Even The Lost Village has to take a moment to breathe from time to time.
In spite of actually visiting Little Witch Academia, which is by all rights an infinitely better show, this week’s Space Patrol Luluco was actually pretty underwhelming. Seeing Sucy was nice, but cutting out every other character except for Luluco and Nova meant this episode lacked the rapid-fire jokes that usually hold everything together. Sucy deadpanning the countdown to Luluco’s death just can’t match up to Luluco’s usual shenanigans; I appreciated the relatability of Luluco’s struggles to connect with Nova, but that was pretty much all this episode had going for it. Luluco works because it grounds its humor in likable characters, but its characters aren’t strong enough to carry the show in the absence of that humor. In the end, this episode mainly just reminded me that Little Witch Academia has become a frustrating outlier in Trigger’s output.
And at the other end, this week’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was friggin’ incredible. Diamond is Unbreakable has consistently worked wonders by lowering the stakes of the show’s adventure, and this week’s episode was a shining demonstration of how much this choice has improved the series. Instead of some high-flying cross-continental battle, this week’s episode was… mostly about convincing a creepy girl at school to stop liking Koichi. Conflicts like this are a dime a dozen in ordinary teen sitcoms, but crossing that premise with the inherent absurdity of JoJo, along with this particular arc’s wonderful cast, resulted in one of the show’s best episodes yet. For one thing, the creepy girl in question absolutely made the most of her role – Yukako was a perfect mix of high-strung crush and horror apparition, even down to the evil, clinging hair. For another, just seeing Koichi and his friends banter and spy on each other consistently demonstrates that we’ve likely arrived at the most charming JoJo cast yet. And finally, as always, the episode was consistently able to one-up itself in the most surreal and entertaining way possible.
In a standard version of this particular narrative, the fact that Koichi used his friends to push Yukako away would come back to haunt him, but it’d generally be in the form of a scene where he realizes his actions were hurtful, and that honesty is the best policy. But because this is JoJo, Koichi’s plan immediately results in him being kidnapped by hair, held hostage in a remote mansion, and force-fed asparagus wrapped in dictionary pages. Essentially every moment of the episode’s last act doubled down on the madness, leaving us with an episode brimming with great standout moments and a consistently hilarious narrative. JoJo is on top of the world.
And while we’re talking of fantastic episodes, hoooooly shit this week’s Concrete Revolutio. I’ve been waiting all season to see Urobuchi’s contribution to the show, and it certainly did not disappoint. It was very like Urobuchi to choose the Vietnam War as his topic – it fits nicely into his general “we are often pawns held down by an uncaring system” wheelhouse, and more than that, it’s one of the most violently charged mistakes of the twentieth century. The contrast between Jonathan and Jiro felt like it itself was an Urobuchi protagonist, stranded between what the system has made of us and how we hope to overcome it.
“What the system has made of us” ended up being pretty literal in this case, as Jonathan had actually been turned into a superhuman with various attachable parts (very cute of Urobuchi to refer to this system as the JOE program, a cynical nod towards how America consistently sanitizes its imperialist instincts). The speech by the American general in the middle was angry enough, given it directly underlined America’s system of nation-building, and framed it as our “strength.” But even better was the thunderous subtext of the conclusion, where Jonathan’s post-traumatic stress ultimately convinced him that he was always meant to be a soldier. Not only was this true to what the army does to people, it essentially made Jonathan into a representation of America itself as outlined by his superior – consistently seeking war, leveling the world and establishing itself as the only thing left to believe in.
In short, this episode was furious from top to bottom, pointing a steady and unforgiving finger at America’s unconscionable spirit of interventionism. The only light in this episode was provided by Jiro – it was an equally Urobuchi choice to ensure Jiro’s relationship to Jonathan reflected his own history (early on, Jiro bonds with the soldier both in terms of his unhappy relationship with his father and his initial belief in justice), and ultimately, Jonathan’s tragedy was not able to shake Jiro’s faith. But overall, this episode packed an entire war story into a twenty minute package without missing a beat. God damn.