This was another perfectly acceptable week in anime. I’ve pretty much accepted that this is going to be a workmanly season – there’s nothing I’ll love as much as Oregairu or Flip Flappers, but most of my list will consistently turn out solidly enjoyable episodes. Dragon Maid is the comfiest thing I could hope for, Tanya continues to be far too entertaining for its own good, and Rakugo holds up the prestige end of the season with relative grace. March also seems to be recovering from its weaker stretch, which is nice to see. This probably won’t be the season we come back to at the end of the year, but hey, some seasons are just trying to pay the bills. So let’s start with some fuwa fuwa dragons and run this week down!
This week’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid was apparently made for me. Focused entirely on Kanna preparing for and then sitting through her first days at school, it was basically a concentrated dose of everything that makes this show not just funny, but deeply lovable. Tohru’s feelings for Kobayashi are still a little silly, but the relationships between each of them and Kanna feel like legitimate, earned bonds now. The slight background narrative of Kanna worrying about being a financial burden may have been my favorite bit – there were plenty of overtly adorable gags, but her look of concern and hurrying to put away a tiny keychain toy pretty much broke my heart. And the comedy here was still as strong as ever, making great use of the kind of incidental buffer skits that helped Nichijou manage its tone. The tone of this show is just terrific in general – the visual design and animation are excellent, no characters seem out of place, and even the background music is very distinctive, full of quirky little sing-along vocals and unusual instruments. Dragon Maid is a pretty bulletproof execution of one of anime’s best attractions.
Seiren redoubled its commitment to weirdness this week, which was basically all I was hoping for. The show’s understanding of characterization and drama aren’t nearly strong enough to make it work as an “actual” romance, so what I’m left with instead is a series of bizarre scenes peppered with lines like “I can’t let her get away after showing me her massive deer.” Shoichi and Toru make for as lukewarm of a non-couple as the last pairing, but having Toru be a committed gamer at least meant this episode’s conflicts were full of really silly proper nouns and ridiculous dramatic assumptions. The road through Seiren isn’t going to be an easy one, so I’m taking what I can get.
March comes in like a lion continued its recovery streak this episode, as Rei once again demonstrated he’s rising above his depression’s recent low swing. March’s adaptation structure has hurt it in the past, but its absolute loyalty to the manga chapters is at least giving me a clear impression of how smartly the source material was designed. Depression really does come in waves, and it’s understandable that the holiday season would have put Rei in a lower state than any of his other troubles. Watching Rei move from deep unhappiness to committed distraction to actually something approaching mental health in “real time” has been a unique and satisfying experience. I’m glad I got to watch this show as it was airing.
ACCA kept to its general low-key approach this week, calming down from the relative theatrics of the Suitsu coup to focus on its general mix of auditing, espionage, and excellent bread. The show still doesn’t really have a sense of danger or consequence, but I actually enjoyed how well Jean took the news of Nino being his tail. Some elements of the show’s emphatically laid-back tone can feel out of place, but both Jean and Nino have always seemed like professionals who understand the stakes of their work are higher than their peaceful times would indicate. And the show’s mix of spies and counter-spies is actually stirring together well, giving Jean a comprehensible web of contrasting loyalties. The show’s odd slice of life/thriller mix continues to offer a pleasant, if not exactly thrilling experience.
Saga of Tanya the Evil took a break from owning Tanya this week to let Tanya own a bunch of other people. This may actually represent a bit of a turning point for the show – from now on, it feels like it’ll be a bit trickier for god to keep upping the stakes and completely turning around Tanya’s fortunes. But the show’s been written well enough so far that I’m sure it understands we need a balance of gleeful Tanya and owned Tanya, and that aside, they’ve also just sold me on her personality by now. Tanya’s an absolutely, unrepentantly awful person, but she’s a ton of fun to follow around, and the show doesn’t even begin to apologize for her behavior. Between its consistently smart direction, its speedy pacing, its wonderfully terrible lead, and embellishments like her second-in-command digging a friggin’ hole to hide in, Tanya has established itself as one of the most entertaining shows of the year so far.
This week’s Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was pretty much the opposite of last week’s, offering some slow-burning suffering to make up for last episode’s joyous Konatasu performance. In an aesthetic sense, this might have been the season’s best episode yet. From the evocative contrasting of generation-tethered instruments like calligraphy and walkmen to tricks like the use of incense as a visual parallel to the ever-menacing river, the episode was both visually purposeful and consistently beautiful. I really like how much of this show’s imagery ties back to the idea of drowning underwater; not only does that reflect the fate of Sukeroku and Miyokichi, but it also pops up consistently in a variety of rakugo stories, making a “return to the unstoppable current” feel like a cyclical inevitability. And Bon’s major performance was captivating in a new and frightening way this time, as shots framed to portray the venue as a cavernous, overwhelming expanse gave way to intimate shots of an old man giving in to his frailty. Rakugo is a fine demonstration of how tragedy that seems inevitable can be just as affecting as the trials we never saw coming.