Winter 2017 – Week 3 in Review

Well shit, where the hell did all these shows come from. Last week I was basically on the verge of rechristening the Week in Review in Rakugo’s honor, and now I’ve got all these friggin’ words about dragon maids and nazi lolis. It turned out the winter season wasn’t quite done with me yet, and so it looks like we’ll be returning to my regularly scheduled ramblings. The second episode of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was miles better than the first, and the second and third episodes of Tanya were… actually really entertaining? I mean, I can at least say for sure now that the show definitely isn’t Mahouka – a great part of the appeal is watching Tanya get kicked around by the actual deity of her world. Whether that appeal keeps the show entertaining for a full season, I couldn’t begin to say, but either way, it’s time for words. Let’s start with the two newcomers and RUN THESE SHOWS DOWN!

At the urging of my twitter feed, I ended up watching this week’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and I’m glad I did. While the pure Kobayashi-Tohru dynamic didn’t thrill me, adding tiny dragon Kanna to the mix made the show both much funnier and much more charming. Kanna is very few steps removed from Nichijou’s Professor Hakase, and the professor is one of my favorite characters in any anime ever. From the small buffer gags to the larger sequences built on charm or visual splendor, this actually felt much closer to a Nichijou episode than the first in general. The show has established something approaching a family now, and Kobayashi’s behavior towards the inherently likable Kanna makes her more likable as well. Maidragon has snuck its way back into my regular viewing schedule.

I also caught up with Saga of Tanya the Evil this week, which- look, I know. It’s ridiculous. It’s the nazi loli show. Still, I watched the second episode on a whim, and it was actually really entertaining. Unlike Mahouka, this show knows its protagonist is an awful fuck – in fact, the episode opens with him (turns out Tanya’s actually a middle-aged manager in a little girl’s body, so yes, this is also an isekai show) getting murdered for his shittiness and then punished by god by being stuck in Tanya-form. “Sociopathic careerist is continuously punished by god for his asshole personality” is a much more compelling premise than “awesome nazi loli kicks ass and we love her,” and so far the show has made good on that premise. The thing about Tanya is on top of its inherent silliness, it’s actually very well-executed – the direction is snappy, dialogue full of personality, and overall aesthetic (mush-faced girl character aside) quite strong. I don’t know how I got here, but I guess here is where I am.

This week’s Seiren stuck largely to the show’s guns – bland harem-style romance mixed with a bunch of singularly odd kinks. I’m frankly thankful this show is so unique in its fetishes, because outside of that, there’s basically nothing of interest going on here. The protagonist has no personality, and what visual invention exists is all dedicated to gawking at the show’s female cast. Seiren is more interesting and accomplished than your average harem, but not by all that much.

March comes in like a lion was also pretty lackluster this week, unfortunately. The show can still pull off inconsistently great episodes, but its average episode quality has definitely fallen over time, as it’s been forced to rely ever more heavily on successively less compelling visual storytelling. The evocation of Rei’s panic in this episode’s first half was both uninspired visually and far too small of a conflict to sustain its own length. The depression-focused material in the second half was better, but March pretty much always nails that material, and even that was largely carried by the writing. Still, I’m hopeful things will come together as the show approaches the more meaningful conflicts its opening song hints at. There’s still a lot to enjoy here.

And continuing with the negativity, Interviews with Monster Girls hit the chopping block this week. I was initially excited to see an episode focused on the succubus teacher, but when her feelings resolved into feeling competitive about Machi’s feelings for the male teacher, I was basically done. Monster girls crushing on the dude is the least compelling direction this show could take its material, and beyond that, this episode also just wasn’t entertaining. As Tanya readily demonstrates, I can accept some dramatic toxicity if a show understands how to make that stuff fun – but this episode felt poorly sequenced and dramatically unfulfilling, and was also lighter on strong jokes than either of the first two. I might pick this one back up if I hear good things, but for now, Monster Girls is out.

Moving back into reasonable territory, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu had a perfectly solid episode, if not a standout. I’ll be interested in seeing who this one’s episode director was, because the first half of this episode struck a very different tone from the show’s usual mode. Rakugo is generally pretty conservative in its cuts outside of the big performance sequences (which helps them stand out that much more), but the early scenes at the festival were all quick, choppy cuts and extreme closeups, creating an odd sense of tension in scenes that didn’t necessarily warrant it. But this episode’s real prizes came in the second half, as Yotaro “found his rakugo” in passionately dressing down his former gang boss and Bon rewarded his pupil with a performance straight from Sukeroku. In between those, the strong bond between Yotaro and Konatsu formed the episode’s emotional turning point.

I’m still really hoping the show is going to let Konatsu perform, and just become a more active player in general in her own life. Rakugo is a self-conscious tragedy, and they’ve been deliberately setting Konatsu up as a tragic parallel of her own mother, but that route seems far less satisfying to me than one that ends with a self-possessed Konatsu who’s more than just the rock of the family. Rakugo’s been very generous in the people it’s allowed its men to become, it’d be nice if it extended the same courtesy to its heroine.

And finally, Jean really seems to be in the shit now in ACCA. The whole country seems to assume he’s a spy for the rebels, and meanwhile he’s been enlisted as an actual secret agent by two conflicting government agencies. This episode was still relatively “slow” in terms of big narrative events, but it pulled Dowa’s politics much more clearly into view, and seemed to also set up a loose timer for when things are finally going to blow. ACCA is such a generally charming experience that I’m not really desperate for things to explode, but I’m certainly ready for a shakeup of the current civil order. Enough pieces are in place now for a very satisfying political feud.

14 thoughts on “Winter 2017 – Week 3 in Review

  1. Glad you’re enjoying Tanya so far! I too was icked by the premise initially, but it’s really fun seeing the disrepancy of perception between Tanya and her surroundings and her -not-getting her way despite (or because) of others best intention.

    That said, I don’t know how much that appeal will last. It seems to try to struck the same power fantasy appeal for isekai stories where “I’m OP but I don’t want to fight, yet I’m dragged anyway” more than “sociopathic person gets punished”

    Overlord kind of struck the same note with me initially with its protagonist being seen as a badass boss while actually shivering like a coward inside, but it eventually devolves into a power trip. It happens when it focuses more and more towards third character point of view instead of the protagonist’s point of view. It’s likely Tanya will also eventually follow that route, so it will be more and more like episode 1. Well, feel free to drop it then.

    • Personally I enjoyed Overlord. Sure, the protagonist is OP as fuck, but I simply liked seeing the premise of one world’s typical “Evil Lord” being a) pushed by very human motivations from a different world’s point of view and b) being slightly more gray than would usually be painted. Granted, it could have done much better, but alas, “underutilised premise” is the name of the curse of anime, manga and light novels as a whole. Seems like in this business all you need to do is come up with a really cool sounding pitch and then pile up asspulled shit on top of it until no one buys it any more, then wash, rinse, repeat.

      Also, frankly, being a huge RPG nerd I just liked the fights. The last one against Vampire Goth Loli especially. It wasn’t exactly well animated or anything but I enjoyed seeing the entire thing play out like a proper high-level boss fight.

  2. The latest episode of Rakugo was directed by Bob Shirahata, whose credits include series direction of Diamond Daydreams and episode direction of Log Horizon 2 ep.12 and Konosuba ep.4 (all at Deen).

    • Oops, looking around a bit more, it seems like it’s “Shirohata”, not “Shirahata”.

  3. “I can feel the depravity in my pants” is too perfect a line not to use in some noir satire. I can hear Bogart saying it.

  4. Feeling a bit misled by the first episode of Demi-chan. The show was pretty unashamed of dedicating the entire second episode and a lot of the third episode to crushes on sensei, huh? The setup for next episode seems like it will have more grounded material, though, so I’ll stick around for one more and see what happens.

    • You should not. Don’t tell anyone but I had a peak at the manga, and it will be more of harem shananegance. The firs episode was the way it was because it was mostly original material.
      Oh how A1: Fixing the problem but only in first episode, because original material makes a good hook.

      • I read the manga and had a whole different experience with it. I’m not trying to discount your opinion or anything, but for me it felt like the harem shenanigans are pushed to the side quite frequently, and I didn’t really get the feeling that any of the characters other than the two already established were hitting on sensei.

  5. So what happened to the Konosuba? I mean sure Kazuma is still alive, but so are the frogs.

    • Yea I’m not sure. It looks like Bobduh actually watched the first episode but isn’t writing about it for his Week in Review

  6. “a great part of the appeal is watching Tanya get kicked around by the actual deity of her world”

    Or her own decisions because she’s too hell bent on not damaging her career in the slightest, and that irony is what really makes the story for me. The first episode played up her evilness, but as the later episodes showed, she’d rather be anywhere but the frontlines. She’s definitely a sociopath, mostly due to a complete lack of empathy, but not that much of a sociopath.

    The decision to start with nothing but action is nonetheless a very good one and also one that worked out well judging by the general anime public’s reaction, despite it not resonating a lot with critics who ultimately don’t matter as much. There’s simply a lot more people who are in it for the spectacle than who are worried about German war efforts being depicted in a good light. (I hope all the Nazi references around the internet are mostly jokes and people are not THAT historically ignorant) Sure, they’d get bored after a while from a show that has nothing but the spectacle, probably without being able to express why too, but as a hook this works far better than to start the show with a whole lot of exposition. It also creates a twist where there was none in the book.

    Not sure how I’d have taken the first episode had I not known the novel beforehand either, but so far this adaptation has been the most competent one such a weird LN could have ever hoped to get. A bit too much on the serious side for me—the manga adaptation fully embraces the inherent silliness with its animal headed soldiers, cute Tanya faces and hilarious mishmash of different religions’ deities—but again, this arguably works out better for the general public, they’re trying to turn this into a cinematic hit and it seems to be working.

  7. Well, the director of this ep of Rakugo was Bob Shirohata, known generally as the Hetalia guy, that also directed some yaoi and stuff like Gravitation and Hiiro no Kakera, the storyboarder itself was Shinichi Omata, the series director, that has done the storyboard of all three episodes.

  8. Nazis Nazis Nazis. Come on people, the trenches and the artillery and the barbed wire is screaming WW1 at you, even if you don’t recognize the uniforms and spiked helmets as being Imperial German or recognize the French army’s WW1 uniforms, or the use of Maxim guns, or the distinct lack of tanks.

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