Preview week has finally concluded, and most shows are already past their second or even third episodes. This season turned out to be even more bountiful than I’d expected, meaning I’ve had to make some ruthless cuts to make the absolutely most efficient usage of my cartoon consumption experience. Magical Girl Raising Project’s second episode killed the sleepy magical girl, so it’s off the list. Keijo’s second episode only had me intermittently laughing through its first half, so it’s gone. With roughly forty or fifty weekly articles to write, I’ve been forced to cut down my list of “leisure anime” to only the fiercest, boldest, most ruthless entertainment machines on the market. It’s brutal work watching all these cartoons, but I can take solace in compressing the painstaking work of dozens of artists and animators into an offhand paragraph for your lunch break consumption. Let’s grit our teeth, clench our bowels, and RUN THIS DOWN!
First off, Flip Flappers’ second episode did the most important thing it possibly could – not entirely collapse in on itself. Maybe it’s because of the Rolling Girls curse, but Flip Flappers currently feels like a shack built out of dynamite to me, and I’m just waiting for the whole thing to explode. The show is driven far less by sturdy narrative fundamentals than by a sense of worldbuilding wonder and natural visual storytelling, which kinda makes sense, given its animation prodigy director. Sequences like Papika following Cocona around the school don’t necessarily tell us a great deal through dialogue, but still create engaging narratives through their motion and physical relationships (like the goofy sequence of Papika following her into and then out of the bathroom). The Pure Illusion segment here similarly ran almost entirely on dream-logic, offering a resolution to Cocona’s concerns about Papika in only the vaguest narrative sense.
And that’s all fine! I actually appreciate the show’s looseness, it’s just a harder path to pull off for a full series than a more conventional narrative. The OP still indicates this will eventually become something of a magical girl battler, but if Flip Flappers can maintain its personality even while it eventually turns to whatever its core narrative will be, it could be a pretty excellent show.
Sound! Euphonium 2’s second episode couldn’t match up to the phenomenal premiere, but I somewhat expected that. Sound! Euphonium’s first season built up to its high points, starting off with strong but more conventional school drama featuring some comedy hooks, and it’s looking like the sequel will do the same. I’m still not entirely sold on the conflict of Nozomi and her friends, but the show is executing its major conversations well enough for me to be fully engaged anyway. The conversation between her and Yoroizuka was a particular highlight here – Yoroizuka felt a little too extremely shy to be believable in her first episode material, but her feelings came through clearly through framing and some unusual thoughts this time. I think my main hope is that the show will find a way to better integrate its new drama with its existing cast; Kumiko’s friends and the third years really haven’t had anything to do yet, so hopefully things twist more tightly together soon.
Girlish Number’s premiere was everything I could have hoped for from “Watari Wataru takes on the industry.” It’s sharp and funny and already full of engaging characters, plus the character expressions are actually better than either season of Oregairu (thought it can’t match Oregairu S2’s terrific direction). Protagonist Chitose is pretty similar to Hachiman in that she also embodies a very childish kind of seen-it-all cynicism, and her mix of commentary and great reactions already makes the show very entertaining. But of course, just like with Oregairu, I’m even more interested in seeing how this show will complicate her world and perspective, offering both affirmation and condemnation of her initial attitude. It’s likely that Girlish Number will be a lighter show overall than Oregairu, but Wataru’s a dude who cares about his characters too much to go easy on them.
Yuri!!! On ICE‘s second episode was significantly more goofy than the first, but I’m actually totally on board with this show’s sense of humor. Yuri and, uh, Yurio make for a great pair – Russian Yuri is a kid, but his sillier qualities actually humanize him in a way comic relief moments often fail to. Part of that comes down to the fact that Yuri’s quirks are a clear extension of his fundamental personality – both his weakness for gaudy tiger shirts and his inability to stop tweeting seem like natural extensions of his general hot-headed attitude, and undercut his self-seriousness without also undercutting his sympathetic nature as a character. A very likable cast and this show’s speedy pacing make Yuri on Ice an eminently watchable production.
March comes in like a lion maintained the strengths and weaknesses of the first episode in its second – namely, some of the humor was crap and the domestic scenes a little disjointed, but the evocation of Rei’s depression was bulletproof throughout. I was also happy to see this episode focus on Akari’s personality, as it felt there was initially a little threat of this going in the manic pixie dream family Garden State direction. There were also plenty of compelling individual choices in this episode, like how fully we were able to parse Rei’s victory over this week’s opponent through the combination of funny expression work and actual shots of the board position. March comes in like a lion has so many strong individual components that I’m still trying to gauge exactly what kind of great it’s going to be.
Izetta’s third episode was effective largely in the same way the first was – its highly professional narrative structure and execution lead to a fine articulation of some standard genre beats. In this case, the way the show layered the current siege through the soldier on the ground, the concerns of Fine and Izetta, and the pompous German generals gave it a solid dramatic context, while only losing the specificity of tone that might have been achieved by focusing on any one of these levels (well, either of the first two, that is). With Fine’s escape concluded, this episode necessarily had to build the bridge between Fine wanting Izetta to be safe and Fine accepting Izetta’s role as a war icon, so while I wasn’t truly thrilled by much in this episode, it accomplished its narrative responsibilities well.
Izetta’s battle sequence here was a lot of fun, and I particularly liked how Fine immediately realized that once Izetta revealed herself, she had no choice but to embrace Izetta’s iconic nature as the revived white witch. Fine’s general competency is probably one of the most distinctive things about this show; instead of saddling us with a protagonist who has to grow into her responsibilities, Izetta is presenting a natural hero and an unwinnable conflict worthy of her presence.
And JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure returned to the classic Stardust Crusaders mode, as Josuke was presented with a ridiculous threat and forced to do a bunch of improvising. Highway Star was basically “what if Keanu Reeves had Crazy Diamond in Speed,” and as far as that concept goes, it was a fine enough time. This episode felt like a Stardust Crusaders throwback in a whole bunch of ways, from Josuke’s “ah, you think you’ve defeated me?” speeches to stuff like Koichi being a dick to the nurse at the hospital. Not truly a highlight, but a fine riff on an inherently JoJo-ready premise. The Stand powers are now distinctive enough to carry some pretty basic ideas on execution alone; even the small upgrade from Stardust Crusaders’ base elemental powers to “can repair things” and “can make things heavy” means there are a million more options for every encounter. Stands are a very robust concept!