Anime was plenty strong this week, full of epic punches and cathartic emotional revelations and long afternoon naps. JoJo added another feather to this arc’s already outrageously festooned cap, and My Hero Academia finally started in on its higher-tier material. The Lost Village and Flying Witch both did the kinds of things you hope for from those shows, and Concrete Revolutio seems to be sticking the landing by smartly tethering its overall ideas directly to Jiro’s personal development. The season would be strong even if the more questionable shows actually did fall apart, but it’s nice seeing that even stuff like The Lost Village and Kiznaiver are rallying for their last acts. This is a season to be proud of.
First off, I enjoyed this week’s My Hero Academia even more than I expected to. We’re in some great material now – the villain arc is the first time when Class 1-A really gets to stretch their muscles and work as a team, and so the next few episodes are all going to be a fun procession of cool fight matchups. I was worried Mineta would drag this episode down, since his pervert shtick sucks and adaptations generally make bad humor like that even worse, but his presence actually wasn’t that bad here. The pacing of the deadpan look Midoriya and Tsuyu give him after he explains his silly power was fantastic, and it was nice to see him ultimately echo both Bakugo (“how can you say that when you’re so scared?”) and Uraraka (“if he can act like that, I can’t fall behind”) in the way Midoriya inspired his own heroic nature. Plus the actual fight solution Midoriya comes up with is great, and Tsuyu and Midoriya are fun to watch all by themselves. My Hero Academia’s pacing has hurt it before, but getting to finish on a big climactic arc is a pretty nice advantage.
This week’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure was one more fantastic episode – one that didn’t just express classic JoJo excellence, but also played with the show’s formula in a variety of new ways. After three huge arcs of JoJo, it’s generally safe to assume whenever something weird is going on, somebody’s up to no good – but here, Chef Tonio simply wanted to use his powers to make the customer happy. And so Josuke and Okuyasu essentially acted as if they were in two different shows, with Josuke attempting to figure out the enemy’s trick while Okuyasu did his best cooking anime impression, commenting breathlessly on the wonders of Italian cooking as teeth shot out of his mouth and guts flew out of his stomach. Even Araki’s well-established dog bloodlust was subverted for the sake of the central joke.
There was a great inherent comedy in applying all the JoJo stylistic tricks to a cooking episode; shocking freeze frames at the discovery that caprese salad is actually really good, Crazy Diamond resolutely punching a plate of spaghetti, etcetera. It’s remarkable how much more confident and creative this season feels compared to Stardust Crusaders; Araki is experimenting and stretching himself constantly, but it all feels incredibly graceful, and the adaptation is drawing so much energy out of the material.
The Lost Village had its “big reveal” this week, or rather, it had about seven big reveals all at once and none of them changed anything because this is The Lost Village, where nobody wins and the points don’t matter. Yottsun’s return was greeted with the very appropriate “who are you, again,” while revealing the nature of Nanaki raised more questions than it answered. The wild rush of non-answers was something of its own reward, but it was also nice to see some scenes relying on the show’s staples, like rambling conversations between the secondary characters where they seem to forget they’re living in a psychological horror anime. It’s weird to say a show like The Lost Village has established “consistency,” but it sure seems consistent in its inconsistency as a working narrative.
Flying Witch was equally consistent this week, though in its case, that means it was charming and well-composed and more or less a warm nap on a Sunday afternoon. The big stars this week were Chinatsu and Akane, both of whom rode their strongly established personalities to nice conversational punchlines. I also appreciated that Makoto couldn’t actually think of any problems in her life. Flying Witch certainly knows what it’s about!
And Kiznaiver ended up shooting for the stars, tethering all of its confessional reveals into an episode that also heralded the connection of the main characters’ fully articulated feelings. That climax was a pretty terrific scene, all told; I really loved the disconnect between the demands the characters’ feelings were making versus their overt actions, and how their friends were unable to reciprocate or even just handle those confessions. And the show’s execution was as strong as ever, with beautiful direction and great sound design imbuing these sequences with all the pathos they could muster.
It seems too late at this point, but I feel that with a few smaller, more intimate conversations between the secondary cast in the preliminary episodes, Kiznaiver would be almost perfect right now. In fact, simply having two good conversations between Tenga and Nico that better established both their own individual personalities and the reason for Nico’s feelings would nearly fix every narrative issue by itself – both of them need a bit more texture, and their personal relationship is essentially non-existent, making Nico feel more like an accessory to the story than a crucial part of it. But as is, Kiznaiver is still quite an impressive show.
This week’s Concrete Revolutio really, really sucked for our friend Jiro. Last week had him already being consistently chastened by his friends and former allies for not being able to move beyond his simplistic beliefs, but this time, a more direct reunion with “Claude” forced him to literally battle his own former self. I wasn’t so sure about the helmet reveal in the early parts of this episode, as it felt like something of an arbitrary, wholly plot-based conflict. But having the villain here be “an absolute certainty in your own justice,” and furthermore having that villain be based on an earlier, angrier version of Jiro himself, was a very strong direction to take Jiro’s past and future.
The end of Concrete Revolutio’s first season represented a breaking point for Jiro, as his belief in only pursuing truly just actions made him no longer capable of supporting the bureau. But throughout this second season, Jiro has altogether failed to come up with a meaningful alternative – instead, he’s simply helped superhumans on an individual level, ignoring the difficult societal questions that prompt institutions like the bureau to make such seemingly unjust compromises. But as the ambitions of his allies have increased and his former friends have continued their own fights, Jiro has found himself unable to get away with his smaller style of thinking. And in the end, he’s forced to give that harsh lecture on the way of things directly to his former self, admitting that adulthood is a series of ugly compromises, and even accepting the actions of the bureau during his own adolescence.
It was a pretty stark place to take this fundamentally optimistic show, acknowledging and embracing a level of moral ambiguity the show has never previously sanctioned. And it was bitterly appropriate that Jaguar was the one who convinced Jiro to make this speech – the man who’d already killed his own idealistic former self convincing an apprentice to do the same, in the guise of “helping a crying child.” Concrete Revolutio’s second half is proving to be even sharper than I’d anticipated, laden with the fatigue of taking the best of bad options time and time again. It’s a thankless superhero life.
And finally, for perhaps the first time all season, Space Patrol Luluco actually made me think about something. As far as Luluco episodes generally go, it was a perfectly reasonable one – we’ve escaped the season of faffing about in other shows, Midori had some good banter, and ragging on the worthlessness of Luluco’s love was a solid extended gag. But what I found most interesting about this episode was the villain’s motivation – how, after shoplifting many valuable things, he’d come to believe that “the most worthless things are actually the most valuable.” This idea of “worthless things” was contrasted against a spread of crappy cultural detritus, and made me think, well, is that what Imaishi’s really saying here? Is he talking about himself?
Imaishi makes trashy shows, shows heavy on fanservice and bodily functions and lots of loud, incoherent yelling. He makes “low culture,” stories within a disrespected medium that furthermore embody a lot of the things people disrespect about that medium. Kill la Kill struggled for nearly two seasons to arrive at a point, and ultimately ended on “we’re incomprehensible, and that’s actually good.” And here in Luluco, the villain’s ultimate motivation is “after stealing valuable things, we’ve come to realize the most worthless things are actually the most precious.” So it seems like the significance of his own work is just possibly on Imaishi’s mind? He’s not really making an actual argument here – having your characters simply state your work is valuable isn’t convincing, your work has to embody that argument. A great show demonstrates it is great by being great, not by having its own characters call it great. But still, it’s interesting to think that Imaishi himself might not be able to get out from under a set of expectations that will never really have much to do with what he cares about in art.