Fall 2016 – Week 4 in Review

This was a workhorse week in anime. We’re several weeks out from the premieres, meaning most of this season’s shows have more or less established their tone and structure, but we’re still also some distance from the sort of narrative shakeups that often mark the midpoint of one season productions. That point in the season means many shows are entering a bit of a lean period at the moment – demonstrating their fundamental quality, but not really dazzling with any new talents. Yuri on Ice and Flip Flappers have largely settled into their genre spaces, Girlish Number and Euphonium each hit some mid-sized dramatic turns, and JoJo just kept chugging along. Weeks like this put the onus on me to come up with new stuff to talk about, so thanks a fuckin’ lot, anime. Fortunately, after possibly more than a hundred of these Week in Reviews, I’ve learned how to spend a lot of time talking about basically nothing. So if that sounds like fun to you, pull up a chair and take a seat as we RUN THESE SHOWS DOWN!

Yuri!!! On ICE finally showed its seams this week, as was pretty much bound to happen. An anime about figure skating is an inherently outrageous proposition – figure skating is a sport that embodies fluidity and grace, and fluidly animating new performances every week is an absurd burden. Thus the show is forced to repeat its animation, and this episode was very heavy on that – one routine early on was the third rendition of one of last week’s cuts, and Yuri’s own major cut was used twice. Particularly when it comes to something like figure skating, cuts that work perfectly the first time really suffer in repetition; if we’re supposed to be drawing any emotional cues from a performance more than “hey, he’s skating,” that performance needs to be unique.

The episode was a lot slower than the prior ones, which is also unfortunate – Yuri could be a slower show, but its pacing was previously one of its biggest strengths. But the characters are still strong, and this was ultimately a cooldown episode following a major confrontation, so I’m hopeful things will pull back together as we get back into the upcoming tournaments.

Yuri on Ice

Girlish Number performed its most necessary narrative task this week – forcing Chitose to acknowledge she’s not nearly as special as she thinks she is. Her snark has certainly been entertaining, but I go to Wataru’s stories for the humanity, not the cynicism, and the humanity generally comes through when the cynicism just can’t cut it anymore. It also made sense to me that this week’s particular trial was overcome without that much difficulty – Chitose needs to have some talent for her personality to really work, and there’s still a huge difference between “fine acting for a character whose motivation is ‘wants the MC’s dick’” and “fine acting.” This was a fairly minor crucible, but I’m hopeful it’s the herald of far more crushing failures to come!

Girlish Number

Sound! Euphonium wrapped up its initial conflict this week, which was something of a shock – very little else has been seeded across these early episodes, so I figured this thread would be relevant for a while. I can’t really complain, though. The show never wholly integrated its new characters into the drama of the existing cast, but they’re fine additions to the ensemble, so I think things will go more smoothly now that Yoroizuka and Nozomi aren’t the direct focus. Euphonium’s second season is certainly less focused than the first, and its overt narrative has wandered here and there, but its individual episodes are so gorgeously realized that it’s hard to complain too much. The fact that Euphonium’s source material is a little rambly actually kinda emphasizes its success – these are all fairly minor emotional conflicts, and they don’t have the firmest of thematic binding, but Euphonium still manages to make them feel grand and impactful and fully lived in. I’m very excited to see what so much of Euphonium’s staff do next.

Sound! Euphonium

Flip Flappers actually avoided Pure Illusion this week, instead sending Cocona and Papika off on an adventure all within their own world. Things turned out pretty predictably from there – in fact, this episode in general echoed the format of the first episode very closely, just with a desert island instead of a snowy wilderness. The show’s aversion to plot continued, meaning we barely got a useful word from Yayaka, but that seems to be this show’s deal at this point. I’m pretty much fine with that – I’ve tempered my expectations regarding any grand narrative, and am comfortable enough enjoying this show as a visually exuberant series of tiny backyard adventures. “A series of the imaginary adventures you went on as a kid” is actually a pretty compelling premise for a show – I just wish this one would stop leering at its protagonists and destroying its own charm.

Flip Flappers

March comes in like a lion spent nearly a whole episode in its goofy slice of life mode this week, which certainly made for a weaker episode than usual. March’s slice of life stuff isn’t even really bad for the genre, it’s just mediocre, whereas its material focused on Rei’s internal reality is top notch. And many of the jokes here exhibited the textbook issues of translating offhand manga comedy to anime, like the unnecessary stretching of punchlines and pacing-destroying commentary that make the tools of one so unusable for the other. But this show still has a very endearing cast, and they were perfectly charming this week. Even in its weaker moments, the family dynamic is strong enough here that it’s easy to understand the comfort Rei finds in his visits. A strong cast can make up for a whole lot of smaller deficiencies.

March comes in like a lion

One of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’s greatest strengths is its constant, restless invasions of other genres. That generally gives it far more flexibility than most shounen battlers, but this week, that spirit of invention unfortunately didn’t pay off. This episode was structured as a tight potboiler, with constant jumps forward and backward across the course of a single morning – but in the context of this one episode, those jumps didn’t really accomplish anything. Normally, nonlinear narratives are designed as such because they’re excellent for both raising cliffhanger-style questions and managing the pacing of drama. This episode did have a bit of that puzzle-solving appeal, but its fragments were scattered across so many distinct and unrelated characters that there wasn’t really any insight gained by scattering them like this. It really just felt confused, in contrast with the show’s usual extreme confidence.

Fortunately, the Stand battle that consumed the majority of this episode was still a reasonable fight. Superfly is one of the more unconventional recent opponents, and those are always fun ones, plus the assist by Josuke’s alien friend added even more uncertainty to the battle. I’m guessing this episode’s conceit means we’re nearing the final hours of the Diamond is Unbreakable saga, so hopefully that choice pays off soon.

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure

And finally, Izetta: The Last Witch spent this whole episode doing its best Code Geass impression, which was a whole lot of fun. Both sides here seem to understand Izetta’s strengths and weaknesses as a weapon and symbol, meaning this was all political games over round tables, as the Emperor’s agent pulled together all available information and Fine’s group worked to control Izetta’s introduction to the world at large. There’s a reason Code Geass was such a popular show – these types of tactical games, where the audience almost feels like they’re sitting in at these roundtables, are very fun to witness. It’s essentially another kind of grounded conflict, where instead of us knowing all the relative powers of some specific combatants, we know the strategic abilities of each side at large, and thus can gauge and predict how they’ll actually clash. Given Izetta is a friggin’ witch, the show is obviously going to “cheat” in a variety of ways, and pull off twists we couldn’t possibly predict, but if the show wants to succeed as this sort of narrative, it just has to sell the validity of its twists in immediate dramatic terms. Izetta has emerged from a reasonable set of introductory episodes into a solid dramatic platform.

Izetta: The Last Witch

11 thoughts on “Fall 2016 – Week 4 in Review

  1. They’re actually combining/cross cutting about 3-4 different manga arcs in the most recent Jojo due to minimal character overlap, hence why it felt so disjointed. Hasn’t really paid off thus far, but it’s neat that they tried.

    • Pretty much this, and as someone who’s read the manga for this part I can definitely say that David Production made the right choice. It’ll all make sense, don’t worry.

  2. The biggest worry I have for Izetta is if it’s going to fall into “dumb/becoming dumb characters making dumb decisions” or divine coincidences like with Jonas for the sake of moving the story and dramatics.

    • I’m most concerned about it adding needless complexity or darkness as we get closer to the ending, honestly.

      Its attempts at humor and fanservice have generally been ‘meh’ to jarring, too. If next week is the breather it appears to be, I hope it spends more time on Fine and Izetta being sweet rather than on the fanservice promised by the tagline.

  3. “Izetta: The Last Witch spent this whole episode doing its best Code Geass impression, which was a whole lot of fun.”

    Yoshino was actually the Assistant Series Composer for Code Geass. Though I don’t know how big his role on that project actually was since he’s only credited with three episode scripts for Geass and none for Geass R2, likely in part because R2 aired concurrently with Macross Frontier (a high profile series that he wrote ALL the episode scripts for).

    Speaking of Macross Frontier, right now my biggest worry regarding Izetta is that the next episode is going to be like the horror that is Frontier’s eighth episode. If anything, Izetta needs an ecchi hijinks episode even less than Frontier did, so I’m really hoping that the next episode preview is deceptive, or at least not indicative of what the episode as a whole is going to be about.

  4. “A series of the imaginary adventures you went on as a kid” is actually a pretty compelling premise for a show – I just wish this one would stop leering at its protagonists and destroying its own charm.

    And I just wish the author of this blog would take a deep breath and think for a while, because he is now destroying a little of his own charm.

    So according to them Keijo, ridiculously over the top butt-fighting fanservice show is A-ok but the episode which has two or three not very erotic (personally I don’t find them erotic at all), nude scenes is ‘leering at protagonists’ which detracts from the experience. In a show which is, by the way, about a search for identity in time of adolescence much more than about imaginary adventures you went on as a kid. Honestly, I don’t understand.

    Sometimes I wonder how Utena garnered any love of “progressive”, liberal or left-leaning people. If it was a contemporary show by an unknown director, it would be destroyed for containing fanservice, sexualizing protagonists and disrespect towards lesbians. Yuri Kuma Arashi wasn’t treated that way I suspect only because how venerable Ikuhara is in those circles – all the more I’m positive there were traces of discontent in the reception of this show due to that. Just look at the level of ‘leering at the protagonists’ in YKA and compare it to Flip Flappers. Is it really destroying the charm of the show there? Btw, how to tell a story about sexuality in a visual medium without showing it off?

    I’m not saying Flip Flappers is thematically on the level of Ikuhara, but it still may be. And ‘fanservice’ in this show is so mild noticing it demands a special goggles.

    I also wonder why I haven’t yet encountered an article about how (fe)male-gazey and unnecessary fanservice was Victor’s butt in Yuri on Ice.

  5. uh… are you really going to compare the fanservice in keijo to the stuff in flip flap, dude? it’s apples and oranges.

    keijo is built around the absurdity of its premise, which the aggressive fanservice is a part of; on the other hand, flip flap doesn’t require it to work in the first place, so it comes off as intrusive.

    as for those jabs at utena/yurikuma/yuri on ice… you’re just coming across as not knowing the differences between male, female, and queer female gazes. I recommend doing some research on the subject

    • are you really going to compare the fanservice in keijo to the stuff in flip flap, dude? it’s apples and oranges

      Yes, it is. The question still stands – what makes a ‘male-gaze’ magically ok in Keijo? Why is it enough to write ‘oh, this show is ridiculous’ and it is not enough to write ‘the shower scene is there to show that Papika represents an unrestricted id, knowing no physical or social boundaries’. Since when if something is basically not ok the ridiculous nature of anything containing it makes it ok? Btw, I assume it’s the shower scene which spins people so much here, correct me if I’m wrong.

      as for those jabs at utena/yurikuma/yuri on ice… you’re just coming across as not knowing the differences between male, female, and queer female gazes. I recommend doing some research on the subject

      oh, please, enlighten me then. What was so necessary for the story and its themes in Victor’s butt scene? What are those substantial differences between gazes explaining how this naked butt out of nowhere was actually a good scene while Flip Flappers shower in the evening was not? Actually do we operate here on assumption that ‘male gaze’ – bad, ‘not male gaze’ – good? And that YKA or Yuri on Ice are totally ok, since their nudity is ‘not-male gaze’ but some ‘other gaze’? Honestly speaking, I don’t even know where to start a research on the subject looking so profound.

      And are you really sure the following scenes from YKA are not ‘male-gazey’?

      http://i.imgur.com/GBM44IA.gif

  6. re flip flap: it’s not that keijo’s over-the-topness makes it “OK”*; rather, it’s how the premise is centered around the fanservice I’m the first place, so the show wouldn’t work without it. though it being so over-the-top does kinda help it sell the fanservice more as comedy than legitimately leery.

    I say “OK”, but really, it’s important to note that it won’t necessarily work for everyone, and that’s still fine – I’m enjoying the show, personally, but if someone else think it’s creepy, that’s also a valid opinion!

    the difference with flip flap is… yeah, the shower scene, etc. does communicate papika’s unhingedness, as you said, but the show didn’t /need/ to use fanservice to do that. in fact, the first couple episodes managed to do that through the visuals and direction alone! so, as I said earlier, the fanservice is not central to the show’s conceit, and more easily comes across as intrusive.

    re yuri on ice: I’m not an expert on the subject, but basically, putting it very simply and ignoring a lot of the nuance this topic has, the difference between the different gazes are just a matter of volume.

    it’s generally more acceptable to objectify men because… well, because even when you have a piece of media that does that, it’s in the minority. it doesn’t really matter if a show has some male fanservice, because you have tons of other stories out there where men get to be full-fledged characters.

    contrast with the representation of female characters, and how it’s hard to find works that /don’t/ objectify women in some way or another.

    in other words, male objectification is kinda like some light rain rain, while female objectification is like a thunderstorm. in both cases, the impact of individual droplets doesn’t matter – what matters is how many of them there are.

    here’s a good video on the subject: https://youtu.be/1gvYzk0P3BA definitely a lot better at explaining it than I am, lol

    as for yurikuma being male or queer female gazes… honestly this subject is even MORE complicated than just regular objectification, and I’m even LESS equipped to talk about it, so take my comments with a grain of salt, but yeah, I do think yurikuma in particular veers more towards being queer female gaze, in particular because the show is explicitly about lesbianism.

    whew, that’s a lot of words

    • thanks for the answer. However, tbh I cannot agree less.

      re: flip flappers and keijo

      I have several troubles with your (and by extension probably also with this blogger’s) reception of these shows. The most important one is I don’t think Flip Flappers so far contains any ‘fanservice’. Actually maybe it’d better to put it other way: the term ‘fanservice’ is so vague it’s not always clear what it means. Some instances are more or less clear (Keijo!x8), some are not. And looking at the shower scene I’m asking myself ‘is this scene erotic?’ well, a girl is taking an outdoors bath in the evening after a hard day, it looks like it’s relaxing her, good for her, it’s a fun activity btw. Is the viewer supposed to be turned on by that? I doubt it. Are you seriously turned on by watching girls simply taking bath? Is you being turned on by girls taking bath intrinsic to the girls taking bath or is it maybe more a property of your Keijo-influenced mind? Why do you feel it’s intrusive and distracting to the point you’d prefer the girl taking bath should be obscured by animators? Why do you think she needs a detailed explanation on why she is naked there, for you not to be turned on? Actually why nudity is so special 6 seconds of it need any detailed explanations (the girls were eating in this episode – was the eating scene really necessary? The show managed in earlier episodes to do just well without any eating scene!). Exactly how far are we here from ‘women need to be covered to not incite dirty distracting thoughts in men (and women)’ and why it isn’t ‘men (and women) need to quell their dirty thoughts themselves’?

      re: yuri on ice, yka

      firstly, thanks for the link, the series looks very interesting (even though the video starts with faux paradox). Nevertheless it doesn’t make your case stronger. I’d accept it, maybe (though honestly I don’t like the principle you are basing it on, personally I’d insist on talking about “individual droplets”), if we lived in 1980s. Fast forward 30 years and it’s not true anymore that “it’s hard to find works that /don’t/ objectify women in some way or another”. It’s also not true anymore there is only a handful of things which contain heavy objectification of men, PARTICULARLY if we are talking anime. And here it’s again really hard to refrain from making a jab at you, that maybe you were too busy watching things like Keijo to notice it ^^

      In short: you didn’t convince me that Victor’s butt in Yuri was any way better than Flip Flapper’s shower scene.

      I’m also not particularly fond of your defending of YKA – since it’s a show about lesbianism the very scenes which would be ‘male-gazey’ are in fact ‘queer female gazey’, so they are good? Wait, and how do you know Flip Flappers isn’t about lesbianism? Personally I don’t think so, but I’m pretty sure there was nothing in this show so far which excluded this possibility. On the contrary – last episode felt exactly like retelling of significant part of YKA narrative. Anyway, so to assess a scene you have to wait for a show to end and if it’s ‘unnecessary’ lewd, but lesbian it gets a free pass? But what is actually so better about lascivious gaze of a lesbian in comparison with lascivious gaze of a male? Hey and what if it’s a queer male who is looking?

      Also do you honestly think so far Flip Flappers is ‘lewd’ on the YKA level?

      As you can see, that’s also a lot of words.

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