Oh god how are we already nearing the halfway point what the fuck. Soon enough we’ll be past that and entering the final stretch and I can’t even imagine how I’m gonna handle Why It Works and preview week at the same time what the fuck have I done to my life. It’s all out of my hands. I can’t hold onto it anymore. It’s slipping away and I can’t write fast enough and I need to sleep but when I sleep I fall behind and then I wake up and it’s all there again and what am I going to DOOOO.
Hey guys! Wednesday again. You know the drill. LET’S RUN ‘EM DOWN.
This week’s extremely Thunderbolt Fantasy line was “just as you’d expect from the Screaming Phoenix Killer.” Lines like that essentially do my job for me – why do I need to elaborate why Thunderbolt Fantasy is fun when it contains lines that so perfectly sum up its entire appeal? I particularly like the ambiguity of this one, where it could ultimately imply any number of things about this character’s relationship with killing, screaming, and phoenixes.
On more actual plot-related matters, I liked how this episode didn’t drag out the reveal that Gui Niao is clearly the least trustworthy ally imaginable. He’s too strong, he’s got too many important friends, he’s obviously someone we should all be looking out for. There was little doubt he’d eventually become a more ambiguous figure, so I’m glad the story respected our intelligence enough to just come out and say it. And I also appreciated the reprise of the archer’s incredibly ridiculous “I fire an arrow into the sky and then fight you into its trajectory” attack, which this time worked out about as well as you’d actually expect something like that to. One of the nice things about Urobuchi stories is he enjoys both the setting up and the breaking down of fun, ridiculous powers like that.
Planetarian finally got to the heart of its conflict this week, directly articulating the thematic argument that defines the relationship between Yumemi and the Junker. The episode’s visual execution was as middling as ever, but I’m only really annoyed by that because everything else about the show is so solid. Planetarian is a fine anime, but with a truly top-tier adaptation, it could have have been Great without too many other changes. But “better execution” is the work of a million variables demanding dozens of talented staff, so I guess I can’t really lament the absence of a show that was never going to exist. This Planetarian is still pretty cool.
I wasn’t quite as consistently impressed with this week’s Love Live Sunshine as I have been recently, mainly because I was underwhelmed by Yohane’s arc. Her struggles to repress her inner goofiness were funny enough, but in comparison to Hanamaru’s strikingly human struggles, Yohane’s feelings felt a bit undercooked. Part of this came down to the resolution, in that it didn’t really feel like there was one – Yohane’s specific feelings were expressed as no more than a stand-in for the group’s general “I thought I was ordinary, but here I can be special” theme, and the ultimate resolution to her conflict was just “alright, I guess I’ll be an idol.” Maybe it’s because Yohane was hyped up as some kind of successor to Nico, but having her story play out in such a generic way was a little disappointing.
That said, this episode was still full of great comic bits, with Hanamaru once again stealing the show. Hanamaru embodies a simultaneous goofiness and genuine emotional heart that characterizes much of Love Live’s best material, and the show is stronger for having her. Hopefully Dia and Mari’s material will make up for Yohane being a little less entertaining than advertised.
And while we’re covering slightly disappointing episodes, this week’s Sweetness & Lightning was easily the weakest of the show so far, and frankly just not that good of an episode. This episode added Inuzuka’s friend Yagi to the show, but he didn’t actually do anything – we were told that his personality was “wild” in comparison to Inuzuka’s, but that wasn’t expressed through any unique chemistry between him and Tsumugi. The great thing about the various members of Yotsuba’s cast is that all of them share different relationships with Yotsuba, and thus their scenes create unique comic dynamics. Not only did Yagi not really possess anything like that, but this episode’s second half also lacked any real dramatic context – the group made donuts, but there was no emotional thread to give that act meaning. Tsumugi was still as charming as ever, but this was overall a very going-through-the-motions episode.
Orange was up to its usual tricks these week, accompanied by a brief slice of actual time travel discussions. Fortunately, the show only got as far as introducing the concept of parallel worlds before tethering it all back into the usual discussion of nostalgia and regrets. Orange is very much not a show about time travel, and steering its narrative towards a focus on the show’s conceit would be about as detrimental as, well, the last half hour of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. As often as you hear complaints about shows not explaining all of their own devices, it is a very tepid story that actually explains every single thing that’s going on.
In this week’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Josuke found twenty dollars.
Well, more than that happened, but this did almost feel like Araki seeing if he could riff that premise into an actual story. This was one of the most low-key episodes of Diamond is Unbreakable so far, with the only “villain” being that Shigechi is actually kind of a dick. It was nice enough seeing Josuke and Okuyasu pal around, but there really wasn’t much to this one drama-wise, and it was also significantly less impressive visually than many of the others. That’s fine, though; matching a less visually compelling episode with a less dramatically compelling story is better than squandering one of the season’s highlight performances on material that doesn’t really deserve it. Not every Diamond is Unbreakable can be a winner.
And finally, Mob Psycho 100 continued to be its reliably compelling self this week. These last two episodes have formed a welcome transition for the show – instead of just being visually interesting and generally propulsive, it’s now directly diving into the nature of Mob’s character, and contrasting his feelings against the world around him. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I start to salivate a bit when shows interrogate their own protagonists, and while Mob Psycho clearly hasn’t arrived at any groundbreaking points or anything (and I’m not so sure about its author’s weirdly antagonistic view of the world/society in general), coupling its profound visual strengths to material with some real thematic bite seems like a recipe for good times. If this episode is any indication, Mob Psycho might actually keep improving as it goes along.