Spring 2016 – Week 12 in Review

We had a bunch of very fun episodes this week. Rallying from a weaker start, the conclusion to Red Hot Chili Pepper was one more power episode of Diamond is Unbreakable, and My Hero Academia refused to give any ground in its big All Might battle. And we also had a pair of solid season endings, with Concrete Revolutio and The Lost Village both impressing in their own extremely, extremely, extremely incomparable ways. No Flying Witch did result in a bit of a comfy shortage, but I hear there’s a comfy surplus coming up next week, so things should even out in the end. Let’s get right to it and RUN ‘EM DOWN!

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure served up a five course meal of JoJo delights this week, easily making up for last week’s poor showing. Red Hot Chili Pepper’s user was one in a long line of wonderfully eccentric characters, with his guitar theming serving basically no purpose aside from making him that much sillier. His fight with Josuke was a somewhat more conventional Stand battle, but Crazy Diamond is just a far more interesting Stand than most of the hero powers so far, and so there was still plenty to enjoy. On top of that, the visuals were back in peak form this week; lots of great stills, strong colors, and dynamic transitions to keep things interesting.

The episode’s last few minutes were just a sequence of delights all around, as we once again got an opponent hitting Okuyasu in his greatest weak point – not being terribly bright. I really like that, in spite of having a completely absurd Stand, Okuyasu’s “battles” pretty much all come down to him failing to think things through.

And finally, the meeting between Josuke and Joseph was legitimately endearing. Diamond is Unbreakable has consistently had more emotional resonance to it than the prior arcs, since its protagonists are so likable and their problems so mundane, and so seeing Josuke come to terms with this unexpectedly frail father was pretty nice. I could have down without the show double-underlining his choice not to fix Joseph’s cane, but hey, this is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Check your subtlety at the door.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Kiznaiver stuck to its guns this week, meaning it was strong in all those lovely little character moments and kinda wonky when it came to the bigger plot movements. Kiznaiver actually feels like the kind of stories I write, when I’m not overtly trying to avoid leaning into my own tendencies. Plot’s just this kind of fidgety thing going on in the background, I’ve got all these tiny little conversations and moments to create. Surely the narrative will take care of itself, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not actually possible to 100% get away with that strategy, and Kiznaiver suffers for it – Sonozaki’s rebellion here felt pretty empty, for example. But man, all those little conversations on the way feel pretty great.


All Might fully arrived in this week’s My Hero Academia, rescuing his students and taking on the bio-engineered Nobu. Having read the comic and watched the rest of the series so far, it was easy to see pretty much exactly how this episode was going to play out, but it was still fun in action. The most noteworthy thing here was likely the music – My Hero Academia’s soundtrack has been fire all season long (apparently scored by the same person handling Kiznaiver, the season’s other best soundtrack), and the dramatic accompaniment to lines like “The deeper the darkness, the more dazzling the light shines” made them even more fist-pumping than usual. It was also nice to see some creative animation, too – the fight between Nobu and All Might is actually pretty boring on paper, and so the show spiced it up with some great spinning camera work. Things were still slow, as they’ve always been (oh hey, guess it’s time for a two minute flashback in the middle of a boss fight), but as usual, it’s hard to keep this show down.

My Hero Academia

Space Patrol Luluco reached its version of a climax this week, as Luluco’s conviction earned her a Gunbuster pose moment and a reunion with Nova. I liked that this episode was able to do a bunch of visually fun stuff, but honestly, I’m pretty checked out on this show at this point. I like the idea of valuing a first love because it’s important to you, but I don’t care about Luluco, I certainly don’t care about Nova, and referencing stuff like Gunbuster just makes me wish I was watching that instead. Maybe if the show hadn’t dawdled through those awful reference episodes I’d be more engaged, but Luluco has never really had much emotional weight – it was at its best when it was making goofy, punchy jokes and then moving on to the next thing. The concept is fine, but there is far from enough texture here to make anything feel emotionally strong; Luluco is the outline to a pretty decent show, but is not itself that show.

Space Patrol Luluco

And The Lost Village ended in fire and glory, offering plenty more of all those weird highlights that have made it such a surreal and charming experience. We got the gift of Lovepon nearly experiencing her own execution, as well as Mitsumune’s biggest character turn being entirely undercut by a stupid waving penguin. And in the end, a good half of the cast pretty much missed the story entirely, spending nearly the whole show lounging around in the village and bickering. It’s likely no other show will ever be equipped to make use of The Lost Village’s innovative “lessons,” but hey, some things are just too ahead of their time. Godspeed, Unlucky Hippopotamus.

The Lost Village

Concrete Revolutio did not have a perfect finale. That’s to be expected – it was not a perfect show. It’s always had some creaky bits, partially because it’s trying to contain so very much, partially because that’s just the kind of show it is. The ultimate villain here felt a little less indispensable than some of the prior “antagonists,” and the ultimate battle was a little more insular than the student riots.

But small foibles aside, it was a fantastic conclusion to what was easily one of the best shows in years. So many characters were given the moments they deserved. So many battles were depicted with staggering beauty. So much was done, so much was said.

How can I not love a show that pulls together decades of history in its fatigued, far-spanning dialogue, and yet somehow ends on a man choosing to give himself up to represent an impossible ideal in a world he loves. How can I not cringe when I hear a line like “if I lose, I am no longer justice” from someone I’ve come to know, understand, and feel for, even as his rationalization proves how much further he has to go. How can I not tear up when a show about the intersection of culture, war, and progress ends up in a direct battle between cynicism and a man extolling the virtues of art and sincerity. There is so much here. So much richness, so much passion, so much humanity and integrity and thought. It draws in so much of the real world, and yet makes for such a compelling self-contained story. It is plagued by reality but still brimming with hope.

Goddamn was this a show. I’m not even sad it’s over, because it did everything it needed to do. Concrete Revolutio, thank you for being here.

Concrete Revolutio

11 thoughts on “Spring 2016 – Week 12 in Review

  1. Just mentioning this since you raise this issue with regards to Luluco, but – don’t you think that judging shows by the ultimate meter of “emotional resonance” tends itself to be a bit of a limiting approach? It’s in a way not too dissimilar from judging them by whether they’re “fun” or “cool” or whatever. Not all shows set out to achieve emotional resonance, and I don’t think it means that those who don’t have automatically less right to aspire to greatness than the others. Some stories can be only aimed at the intellect – whether to amuse it or stimulate it – without leveraging emotions, maybe purposefully playing their detached/estranged nature for effect.

    Makes me think in fact – I recently read a short story, “Altruizine, or A True Account of How Bonhomius the Hermetic Hermit Tried to Bring About Universal Happiness, and What Came of It” by Stanislaw Lem which has nearly the same identical premise as Kiznaiver: someone tries to bring forth peace by using a technological implement that causes people to share in the pain of those near to them. Yet where Kiznaiver loves to dabble in the small passions and sufferings of a group of teens and amp them to high drama levels, Altruizine deals with planetary-wide catastrophes with the relative detachment of a mythological tale or an ancient historical chronicle. But as a result I’d proclaim the latter to be the superior work by far, as it uses satire as a means to discuss far more interesting and general ideas than those superficially touched upon by Kiznaiver, and its lack of relateable characters and immediate emotional resonance are, if anything, part of what makes it tick.

    • It’s certainly not a universal metric, but I don’t think that’s really relevant for the discussion at hand – Luluco actually IS going for emotional resonance, and wants you to feel triumph when its characters succeed.

      • I don’t really read it that way, and even then, I think there may different “targets”. Luluco still plays out mostly as a wacky comedy, even its emotional beats are self-aware riffs on very standard tropes most of the time. I don’t think the whole thing is meant to have impact at that level, the ADHD-anime-short format really doesn’t work anyway with that kind of aspiration. So its maximum aspiration in terms of emotional engagement is probably “tiny smile at Luluco being cute” or such. I think levity/whimsical is its cipher, in this specific case.

        • I’d definitely agree with you here. I love Nick’s analysis of themes in shows he’s really enjoying, but judging something like Luluco on the basis of its emotional impact feels like a fundamental misunderstanding of what the show is.

          As someone who’s generally enjoyed Luluco quite a bit (other than the LWA and S&VwM crossovers, which felt pretty half-baked), I don’t think the show has evoked any emotions in me other than laughter and a sort of joyous bewilderment*, but I’ve never gotten the impression that it’s seriously tried to.

          *well, okay, fine. I cheered when DON’T LOSE YOUR WAY started playing.

          • Yeah, more or less. Emotional engagement in comedy is a delicate thing – the best comedies are those that manage to seamlessly meld together the two aspects but that’s tremendously hard to do because engagement requires you to take things seriously and at heart while comedy is very often about the exact opposite of that. Many comedies sit either in the full-on wackiness side (Monthy Python’s “Holy Grail” comes to mind as a tremendous example of the genre – absolutely nonsensical, not a shred of investment, and yet uproariously funny) or in some “mostly comedy, but with some lightly cute bits” niche. Again from western animation we have an excellent example perhaps in “Futurama”, which at its best manages to hit some seriously strong emotional highs (hello Dog Episode!) while never taking a break from relentless comedy. An even better example IMHO would be “The Boondocks”, where comedy meets both emotional investment AND strong social and political satire.

            As for “Luluco”, it clearly goes for a tad bit more investment than, say, “Inferno Cop” or even “Ninja Slayer” (that however DID try for some emotional moments, and in at least one case I can say I think it genuinely succeeded at that), but that’s still pretty light, as evidenced by the low stakes placed on everything that happens (even Luluco comes back from the dead as an afterthought – and dies from a pretty ridiculous reason to begin with).

            So yeah, joyous bewilderment it is, I don’t think there’s much more than that, and the occasional cute moment that DOES plaster a big smile on your face (the “Big Bang” speech did that for me for sure) simply enhances the experience but isn’t structural to it.

  2. Not a big deal, but should be Noumu instead of Nobu. Literally “brainless” in Japanese.

  3. I never enjoyed The Lost Village (I dropped it after 3 episodes and gave it 2/10 points). However, I quite enjoyed reading your posts about it. It’s interesting how people can think about humor so differently. But for me, I find jokes that are half logical half nonsense to be the funniest. (Bonus points if it’s convoluted.) But I found The Lost Village’s “jokes” to not make sense at all, which is presumably why I didn’t find them funny.

  4. Concrete Revolutio has consistently disappointed me. I’ve its style of artwork and animation, and really want to enjoy its plotline, ever-interwining thematic ruminations, and the genuinely substantial character development through which it drug a number of its characters, but I never quite got the feeling that it had any idea how to cohere all its disparate plot elements into a meaningful whole, and that really sucked the fun out of CR for me. The ‘big reveal’ with the Imperial Ads fellow suddenly turning out to be an equally powerful villainous foil to Jiro (followed by a battle with an equally sudden and unsatisfying end) was just the last in a long sequence of plot points I experienced as painfully arbitrary, jarring, and difficult to follow. Just never quite got to where you were in enjoying it, I guess, Nick, though I certainly stuck around for the ride.

    • I’ve always felt that CR was an “idea” show whose execution was consistently failing it. The plot is mostly arbitrary, the characters don’t always get the focus they deserve, and the artistic elements like animation and visual direction are usually just competent with a few standout good sequences. But the ideas can be quite compelling. It’s the kind of show that’s quite a bit harder to enjoy in the moment, and while I personally am glad I watched it, I also find it difficult to think of it as good.

  5. Have you been keeping up with Re:Zero? I’ve looked through your blogs and haven’t seen much mention of it. It’s a fantastic show that has a surprising amount of depth to it if you dig deep enough.

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