This week in anime was… look, I’m barely watching anything this season. ACCA and Interviews with Monster Girls are the only non-Rakugo show I’m not both watching and covering for ANN, and that second one’s already kind of on the borderline. If the season continues at this pace, it seems likely we’ll be at This Week in Rakugo before too long. That’s not actually the worst thing! I’ve probably said it before, but I’m much happier with a show or two I really love than a bunch of “watchable entertainment” I’d be comfortable skipping. My media consumption tends to reflect that – I make top ten lists and whatnot, but as an “anime fan,” I’m probably only a fan of 2-3% of what the medium puts out, and could take or leave the rest. That’s not to say I’m a more refined consumer or anything, it mostly just means I understand that some seasons aren’t going to have much for me to talk about. I’ll figure out if I should adjust my schedule for the season at some point (“Week 6: the award for best Rakugo goes to Rakugo”), but for now, let’s run down this season’s slimmest of pickings!
March comes in like a lion was brought down by its own execution this week, in more ways than one. First off, by partitioning the two halves of “Black River” between last episode and this one, the dramatic thread of Gotou’s ambiguous nature was pretty much lost. The show isn’t really treating the “episode” as a coherent dramatic unit, and it’s definitely hurting the story’s impact. And on top of that, the animation this week was kind of ostentatiously wonky, as well. I liked our view into the psychology of Rei’s friend, and the cast overall are as strong as ever, but March can definitely have trouble sticking the landing.
Seiren’s second episode sure was… well, it was definitely more Seiren. I’m actually kinda thankful Seiren’s one of my ANN picks, because it feels like the kind of show that isn’t quite good enough for me to watch it on my own time, but is weird and unique enough to still reward a watch if I can justify it. The show’s conversations flow like actual conversations, which is a fairly rare thing in anime, but those conversations are also peppered with absurd lines about being chased by deer or fantasies about cleaning bathrooms in sweat pants. The show is a weird kind of quirky that feels totally natural – like it’s just written by an odd writer with unique dialogue sensibilities. Few shows are written well enough to have anything resembling a voice, and Seiren actually seems to have a pretty good one.
ACCA continued in its reliably slow, stately way this episode, introducing Jean’s good friend Nino and then casually revealing he’s been spying on Jean for years. That was almost the entirety of the “plot” in this episode, along with Jean regaining his lighter, but the journey there felt consistently pleasant and satisfying. ACCA somewhat reminds me of Grimgar, in that it’s combining its theoretical genre frame (political thriller) with heavy slice of life influences in order to arrive at something with a far more lived-in world. I’m loving the show’s approach, but I’m guessing it’s probably going to limit the show’s broad appeal.
Interviews with Monster Girls dove head-first into the most prominent danger of its premise, with dullahan Machi’s crush already raising the awful specter of a harem of monster girls centered on their teacher. It would suck if the show went in that direction, and this episode wasn’t quite as thoughtful in its approach to demi-ism as the first, but it was still a generally endearing time. Machi really sold herself as a character this week, and there were some great setpieces like Hikari marching her friend’s headless body to the bathroom. Interviews with Monster Girls will have to stay fresh to keep on my watchlist, but it’s holding its own so far.
And Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju was… I mean, jeez. Look at this season. Look how few shows are already on this list, and how many qualifiers even those have to bear. Rakugo would have been a top-tier show even during the incredible fall season, and in an off season like this, it’s just fucking unfair.
This was the second season’s first stunner episode, and it definitely was a stunner. Yotaro’s anxieties here felt absolutely natural, both an echo of Bon’s old trials and also a number of conflicts all his own. His desire to find a new rakugo matches perfectly with his need to find his own rakugo, and his fears about his career trajectory align beautifully with the prospects of rakugo in general. All of the desperation and anxiety of his position were clear in his big performance this week, a parade of nervous fingers and sweating brows that saw him flailing to reinvent himself one moment at a time, checking the audience for approval all along the way.
Bon also got an array of great moments, from his melodramatic distaste for Konatsu’s child, to his odd tenderness towards Konatsu herself, to his brilliant commendation of his apprentice. Bon has lived a rich and troubled life, and his imperfect attempts to coexist with the people he loves is a constant pleasure. From its great cast and storytelling to its consistently thoughtful direction, Rakugo is easily living up to its impressive legacy.