Summer 2016 – Week 4 in Review

This was a week of mild but pleasant surprises in anime land. Over in the Sunshine Islands, Love Live demonstrated that this season might actually have a better handle on its own drama than either of the first two, nailing Hanamaru’s introduction without giving up on the physical comedy that makes the show great. And down in Mob Psychoville, Mob proved himself to be just as strong a character as his show is a visual showcase. With everything else performing pretty much as hoped, this is looking to be another surprisingly sturdy season of anime. My preview chart was short, but nearly everything on that chart has ended up impressing, leaving me with a fine lineup all around. Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!

This week’s Thunderbolt Fantasy really leaned into its D&D adventure style, as we learned of the three deadly challenges the group must face, and the three allies it would need to surpass them. Thunderbolt Fantasy’s story is playing out like a cheesy videogame, and I am totally okay with that – establishing clear obstacles and clear victory conditions seems like one of the better ways to impart this story with impactful drama, considering the puppet fights themselves generally feel more like a nonsensical series of swooshes and explosions than a tangible exchange of blows. And the show’s over-the-top dialogue continues to make for a charming combination with its stiff-expressioned heroes. Thunderbolt Fantasy and JoJo offer two great variations on camp action spectacle, and I’m happy to be enjoying them both in the same season.

Thunderbolt Fantasy

Love Live Sunshine seemed determined to make me eat my words this week, as just after applauding this season for leaning more fully into Love Live’s inherent silliness, we got an episode that shined by relying almost entirely on sturdy character drama. Like the earlier episodes, this one was framed as a mirror of the MakiRinPana episode from the first season – but unlike that episode, this one let its secondary stars do basically all the dramatic heavy lifting.

Chika has been the focus so far, but this episode actually jumped viewpoint characters entirely, and positioned us with the relatably lonely Hanamaru. Hanamaru’s friendship with Ruby made sense on both their parts, and her ultimate act of “self-sacrifice” rang true to everything we learned about her. With Mari also scheming in the background, it seems that Sunshine is taking a much more democratic approach to its narrative progression; things aren’t driven by Chika in the same way the original was driven by Honoka, and basically all of these girls get to have their own style of agency. That makes for a much more compelling overall cast, and I look forward to seeing how that change in perspective will play out once the whole cast has assembled. Sunshine continues to be a satisfyingly robust consolidation and improvement on Love Live’s core strengths.

Love Live Sunshine

Given he spent two episodes brainwashing and abusing Koichi, you might expect Rohan would be slotted pretty firmly in the “villain” category. But this is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and so this week, he and Koichi quickly teamed up and ended up meeting an actual ghost. I’m glad of that, of course – Rohan’s a very entertaining character, it’s delightfully insane to see him and Koichi palling around so easily, and the bizarre tenets of this episode’s ghost world made for some intense dramatic moments and great visual flourishes. The circular world the two of them were trapped in also allowed for one more of the show’s rare CG sequences, as the camera actually panned with them around the block. It wasn’t the most visually graceful sequence, frankly (mainly because the scenery they were traversing was so transparently simplified), but it’s nice seeing the show continue with the better experiments of Stardust Crusaders. Also another dog died.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

Planetarian finally Did the Thing this week, with our melancholy robot companion at last presenting the Junker with her vision of the stars. Even at this point, it feels like there’s not much left to say about this show. Planetarian is simply a small but well-executed drama, offering no surprises, but still pleasing through its excellent thematic poignancy and strong forward momentum. As I’ve said before, I really think this OVA-style format is a great fit for many stories. There’s been more and more experimentation with anime delivery formats lately (I mean, the latest season of Monogatari was only available by phone), and I’d love to see more shows experiment with those possibilities in order to find a format suitable to their storytelling priorities.


Orange continued to raise my blood pressure this week, with an episode largely dedicated to Naho repeatedly biting her tongue and nearly sabotaging her existing relationship with Kakeru. I see pretty regular complaints about Naho not acting the way she’s “supposed to” given the letter, but I don’t really have any problem with that – Naho’s an insecure kid, and this show is more about that and the hopeless optimism of nostalgia than any sort of fantasy thriller “you must fix the past to save the future” sort of thing. But this is certainly one of those situations where my disinterest in plot as a dramatic motivator puts me more in line with this show’s goals than many people. Personally, I can really appreciate a show so laser-focused on a strong and genuine perspective, and am perfectly fine accepting the show’s vague fantastical conceit as the thematic vehicle it is.


Mob Psycho 100 actually upped the ante this week, complementing its consistently inventive visual execution with a story far more poignant than either of the first two episodes. It’s really nice seeing the distinctive ways Mob Psycho uses its visual strengths to convey the feelings of its characters; I already wrote about how Reigen creates his own tonal space over at Crunchyroll, but both the second and third episodes have done a great job of expressing Mob’s exhaustion, insecurity, and assorted other emotions purely through his visual existence. And when you couple that with an episodic narrative whose cult antagonists perfectly matched Mob’s own preexisting insecurities, you end up with something far more emotionally effective than I’d expect from this show. I’m a little worried Mob’s new sidekick will just be a drag all around (Mob Psycho’s humor is still its biggest weak point), but I can’t really complain about this episode for its own sake.

Mob Psycho 100

And finally, Sweetness & Lightning’s newest episode was light on the emotional drama, and instead acted mostly as a showcase of Tsumugi being adorable. It’s kinda funny that Inuzuka is already at the point where he’s asking Kotori for parenting tips, but incidental bits like that were almost lost in the bountiful wave of great Tsumugi moments. Tsumugi doing her best to suffer through a bite of green bell peppers, Tsumugi suspiciously investigating a new red pepper, Tsumugi doing a clump-fighting rain dance, and Tsumugi being smug about her own mastery of flattening the vegetables. I have absolutely no interest in having kids, but Tsumugi sure is a concentrated dose of everything endearing about children. This show’s consistent mastery of believable child behavior continues to be its greatest strength.

Sweetness & Lightning

10 thoughts on “Summer 2016 – Week 4 in Review

  1. About Orange.
    It’s funny you know, the show really does a great job in making you go through Naho’s pain and indeciveness. I find it interesting that it portrays this hesitation, something common in many romance shows(to the point of exaustion), in a way not to stereotype it’s characters. What In my opinion separate orange from the huge mass are just two things. First she can sometimes overcome that and you get the sense that her life is moving forward, as it touches our heart remembering us by opposition that we can’t redo our own choices. Second, it doesn’t seem to be about romance. I mean, yeah that’s an obvious theme, but when you look at it deeper, it doesn’t truly feels about romance at all. Rather, it’s about Naho; the shows put us through Naho’s shoes and we get to taste what she tastes, hear what she hears, see what she sees. When the conversation turns silent, the show takes its time by showing how she reacts to it; if the camera would look at Kakeru, it’s from her point of view. We get long shots of her walking and staring, but it cuts when she is about to make her first call to kakeru.
    It doesn’t dissipate energy going on about a couple, two people and little depth, but it fully focus on Nahu. That is the reason why I think i’ve never cheered for anyone as I got to cheer for her, and why I got emotionally torn by every little thing. Little things are big enough for Naho and the show conveys it very well.

  2. Littered among my many disappointments (we do not see eye-to-eye on them at all, unfortunately!) with the last two Jojo installments is the constant theme of animal torture/death. I understand that as denizens of the this world filled with maddened killers, there’ll probably be some animal casualties, but I think the repetition and gore of it long ago left Narrative-Purpose Station. Is there some deeper reason I’m missing that the author inserts so many slain critters into his work?

    • I’m also still pretty iffy on Mob Psycho. This most recent episode was certainly a highlight, but it feels awfully ugly to call an episode stand-out for finally delivering a morsel of characterization for its lead character.

      Thus far I feel like Mob Psycho suffers from a diminished version of One Punch Man syndrome: it’s pretty and I enjoy that, but I’m not convinced they want me to care about these characters more than a few iotas.

    • There was never much narrative purpose to the animal abuse in the series. In fact, in this case it actually made sense that the dog would die as it most certainly could’ve interfered with the murderer enacting his sick fantasies. Certainly more purpose than some of the other dog murders that were there just for the sake of driving home how sadistic some of the villains are. But it doesn’t matter since the whole issue is so minute that even if I did have qualms against it, that wouldn’t affect my overall impressions on the series in the least.

      It’s also funny just how easily people are willing to compare Mob Psycho 100 with One Punch Man despite the fact that they’d never do so if it weren’t by the same author. I guess one really can’t escape their smash hits.

      • I don’t think the comparison is all that odd. They both feature poorly characterized, in-universe-unchallenged leads. Same author or not, that similarity seems quite-clear-cut.

        Maybe the (depictions of) animal cruelty thing doesn’t matter.. to you? It matters quite a bit to me. I find it pretty disgusting and awful, and it genuinely worsens my experience of the Jojo series. It’s far from my only complaint about the last two arcs – they’ve more-or-less lost everything I loved about the originals – but I don’t consider it non-trivial.

        • I’m never quite too sure about what to think when people complains about animal violence in a series that features abundant and gory depiction of violence on humans as well. If someone hated violence in any of its depictions, even if obviously unrealistic and grotesque, they wouldn’t watch Jojo in the first place. If you’re okay with human violence why does animal violence sicken you that much more?

          • I don’t object to animal violence in art specifically, just to gore and violence without purpose, and my sense is that that’s the case for the tremendous majority of the animal violence depicted in Jojo. But I certainly don’t mean to categorically object to animal violence (or to violence in any form) in art. This is why I originally asked: “I think the repetition and gore of it long ago left Narrative-Purpose Station. Is there some deeper reason I’m missing that the author inserts so many slain critters into his work?”

          • As an example of the opposite: I felt the (human-centric, but nevertheless) violence, gore, mutilation, and so on in Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni was extremely effective in establishing that series’ suffocating, hopeless tone. By contrast Jojo’s violence just seems arbitrary; random mutilation of dogs doesn’t parse coherently with the latest Jojo arcs’ otherwise very silly atmosphere.

          • “Without purpose” is a very relative assessment. Jojo has always been a delicate balance between silly and scary. Its entire point is to be a sort of a horror/adventure story which doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Creepy” is hardly a new mood for a series that started with a Victorian family saga about vampires and went on covering pretty much every horror trope possible. In that respect, animals being killed is just a way to up the ante, but not quite as much as if a person was. Which isn’t always the case anyway – sometimes random passerbys are used at the same end. It’s just a thing of horror stories that a monster ought to kill something to start look truly menacing. And if we consider the animal deaths in Stardust Crusaders, some of them were plenty justified by context – with Pet Shop, for example, the entire fight was animal-themed, so it made sense that he’d kill those dogs. Either way, it’s hard for me to define what would be a worthy purpose in a whimsical, experimental and sometimes intentionally directionless story such as Jojo’s.

          • (I also hear that Araki actually loves dogs, and that his reason for using them as sacrificial victims is that he thinks killing an innocent dog cements the villains as irredeemably evil)

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