The season well and truly ended this week, offering conclusions to Orange, Mob Psycho, Love Live, Thunderbolt Fantasy, and… well, JoJo is apparently eternal, so Not JoJo. Oh wait, Thunderbolt Fantasy also didn’t end, it’s still got an episode left. So I guess this week was actually just a clusterfuck of endings and non-endings, and we’re not going to get a break between seasons after all, and we’re just going to have to live with that. Either way, I can conclusively say that episodes of anime did in fact air this week, and I had at least a couple things to say about several of them. SO LET’S DO THAT!
Mob Psycho 100‘s conclusion ended up being more impressive than I’d expected, and I was already expecting a lot. The visuals were honestly right about par for this show, which was maybe a little disappointing, but that was made up for by the fact that Reigen actually managed to offer a fairly satisfying conclusion to the show’s thematic questions. ONE still seems like a pretty mixed-up guy, but Mob Psycho’s emphasis on both societal engagement and kindness felt far more coherent than One Punch Man’s general mess of whatever, and this show’s cast was strong enough that it was also nice to get a little epilogue touching base with everyone. Mob Psycho was a strong production from top to bottom, and will easily slot in to my end-of-year list. Thanks for the ride, Mob!
More shocking twists aplenty were unveiled in this week’s Thunderbolt Fantasy, starting with the fact that Shang had been using a fake sword all along. There was plenty of entertainment to be found in his ribcage-exploding techniques and blase acceptance of his new nickname, but I also appreciated the show actually tying its sword-world themes together a bit. While the Bones of Creation seeks an unbeatable sword worthy of his unbeatable technique, Shang is perfectly happy whacking people with sticks, and taking the burden of making those strikes lethal on himself. Hurray for thematically coherent foils!
Also, turns out the uber-sword was actually acting as the prison key for that demon god. Whoops! That scene was also sprinkled with a light dusting of thematic cohesion, courtesy of the Bones of Creation’s declaration that he’d be happy to live in a world of chaos, both because swords love chaos and because his ultimate defeat of the demon god would then establish him as a mighty hero. Thunderbolt Fantasy’s “villains” tend to care about titles for their own sake, placing value in the title over the substance of their actions. In contrast, all of its heroes hide their titles, either cloaking their nature like the Enigmatic Gale or taking up a new identity entirely like Shang. It’s not the most rich of thematic stews, but it certainly makes for a cohesive production, and is about the level of complexity you could gracefully integrate into a straightforward adventure like this. Urobuchi has always been a master of storytelling fundamentals, but I appreciate the minimalist approach to theming he’s going with this time – very few straightforward speeches, just letting the actions and preferences of the characters do the talking.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure pulled off an all-timer again this week, though in a very different mode than Kira’s fight. Rohan versus Boyz II Men was one of the most gleefully silly episodes the show has had in a long, long time, and made the most of some of JoJo’s greatest tricks. First off, framing the episode around a game of rocks-paper-scissors was a great choice that called back Jotaro’s poker match. Like that episode, all of the energy and drama that’s normally applied to big physical confrontations was instead applied to absurd mindgames, making for a wonderfully silly spectacle. The execution really deserved notice here – given a conflict that was absurd on its face, the show just decided to lean entirely into it, framing Rohan and his opponent as soaring into the sky in order to throw gestures at each other.
On top of that, Rohan is just a much more compelling character than Jotaro, and this episode leaned into his personality in the best way possible. Even before the match started, I was already cheering at his dismissal of the other leads, as well as his choice to just straight-up punch a kid in the face. And manipulating the invisible baby to assure his victory was a perfectly callous/charismatic choice, an absurd twist that actually didn’t seem out of place for Rohan. This was one of the most entertaining JoJos I’ve seen in a long time, and gives me great hope for the last act of Diamond is Unbreakable.
Love Live Sunshine just kinda shuffled to the finish line this week, continuing the show’s legacy of never finishing a season well. Sunshine didn’t really have the huge tonal missteps of the original two seasons, of course – it was more just very bland in its conclusion, pushing the girls towards their qualifiers with none of the energy or personality that made the earlier material so fun. The Love Live competition itself is almost always the least interesting part of this show, kinda echoing how the music performances are never the highlights they’re intended to be. Love Live excels in tangents and gags and energy, and so its more plot-focused stuff generally struggles. That really is a shame – there’s no reason Love Live shouldn’t be able to bring the same energy to its ostensible dramatic peaks that it does to its smaller stuff, but when it comes time for the big moments, the show can’t help but go broad and repetitive. The theatrical reenactment that concluded this episode honestly was a pretty unique idea, but it just didn’t do anything for the show – and everything that surrounded that was extremely safe “everything we’ve learned” and “everyone is supporting us” fluff.
That said, I’m certainly looking forward to the show’s inevitable second season. Sunshine overall was a solid improvement over the original series, and Love Live’s second season was an improvement over its first, so I’m excited to see what might come next. Love Live is a monolithic institution, but its staff seem to keep learning from the past, iterating in slightly better ways every time. I’m sure they’ll save their school eventually.
And Orange also just kinda ended, though at it at least was able to pull some emotional heft out of its major scenes. Orange certainly didn’t need a double-length finale, but I was legitimately affected by both Naho and Kakeru’s mutual confession and the group’s final night scene, and that’s all I could really hope for. Orange has been hampered by issues as diverse as production meltdown, narrative bloat, and a fundamentally nonsensical premise, but it’s managed to wring consistent endearment out of its extremely strong central cast. Characters are generally the one thing you can’t do without, and Orange demonstrates you can still almost make a show even if they’re all you have.