Dear lord has this season ever begun. Having just barely survived the most absurd preview week yet, my relative watch-positioning on this season’s various attractions is an absolute shambles. I’ve got shows I’m already somehow two episodes behind on, shows I just reviewed this week for ANN, and shows that ended weeks ago and I only just now found time to watch. In light of that, I’m gonna be keeping things a little loose for this Week in Review, and just running down what I actually watched this week in whatever order comes to me. It’s been a hectic week in anime, so buckle the fuck in and let’s RUN THIS SHIT DOWN.
First off, I finally went back and finished off the winter season this week, watching through the last episodes of Saga of Tanya the Evil and Dragon Maid. Tanya’s final episode pretty much just stuck to the show’s guns, offering more fatigued reflections on the cycles of war and more entertaining awfulness courtesy of Tanya herself. Tanya was close to the last show I expected to like this winter, but it turned out to be precisely the kind of show that demonstrates just how much anime can surprise you. Tanya was funny, solidly directed, and actually pretty sharp. Droopy’s face never got any less ridiculous, but even the show’s absurdly clashing art design choices eventually developed their own sort of charm. I’m really hoping we get a second season.
Dragon Maid, on the other hand, reduced me to a soggy ball of sniffles. The show has always been at its best when cataloging the mundane family moments of Kobayashi, Tohru, and Kanna, and having Tohru actually leave the home meant this episode turned into a surprisingly rich meditation on loss and single parenting. Quiet scenes dedicated to capturing the specific tenor of Kobayashi’s feelings felt as strong as anything in the Kyoto Animation catalog, and that is a high god damn bar. Both in content and tone, I was reminded of Clannad’s clear high point – its episode dedicated to watching a single father reunite with his daughter, as both of them try to figure out how to act towards the other. Dragon Maid’s conclusion was rich in character acting, dynamically directed, and just plain heartbreaking. Once again, anime’s most powerful gifts can arrive in the most unlikely packages.
Moving forward to the spring season, Tsuki ga kirei’s second episode was just as awkwardly charming as the first, and with a lot less intrusive CG. Neither Kotaro nor Akane are the most unusual characters, but they both feel like very fleshed-out versions of themselves. Kotaro’s mix of self-conscious literature fandom, general awkwardness, and goofy celebrations of his smallest victories make him feel flawed but endearing at nearly all times. Akane’s active lifestyle and social life contrasts nicely with her social anxiety, resulting in consistent drama without having any single quality dominate her personality. The two of them are charming and multifaceted people, and I’m eager to see where the show takes them.
The Eccentric Family is maintaining its relatively slow start this season, and spent most of its second episode introducing the “conjurer” Tenmaya. Like the premiere, this episode definitely wasn’t Eccentric Family at its best, but it still aptly demonstrated many of the qualities that make the show special. Simply watching Yasaburo run through his daily routine is its own reward – this version of Kyoto and the people who populate it are vivid creations, and I’d happily tour through its attractions for as many episodes as possible. The show’s world is an inherent treat.
My Hero Academia’s latest episode felt a bit less thrilling than the second, and once again made me question the adaptation’s slavish faithfulness to its source material. Sequences like the introduction to gadget girl work fine as a couple pages in a comic book, but feel like awkward time stoppers when they slow down an actively ongoing race in anime. The way the commodification of superheroes is assumed in this universe felt like something to be inferred in the margins of the manga, but there aren’t really any “margins” when it comes to anime – any panel the show wants to adapt, it adapts in full, letting that particular fragment of the story dominate our experience for as long as the dialogue lasts. Different mediums are good at conveying information in different ways, and My Hero Academia’s faithfulness to its source demonstrates that in often frustrating ways.
Attack on Titan also suffered a pretty serious dive this week. And yes, it turns out I am watching Attack on Titan – my housemates are both on the titan train, so we run through both Titan and Academia every Saturday. Unlike the very strong second episode, this third one was heavy on slow exposition and low on dramatic execution, papering over its aesthetic weaknesses with a jarring mix of CG characters, overly held still images, and scenes where characters just straight-up walked through total darkness. I actually really liked the concept of the scouts hunting through the darkness for the wall’s break, but this episode lacked the visual dynamism to evoke anything more than “jeez, it sure is dark.” After four years of buildup, it’s kinda sad to see Titan already stumbling visually in its third new episode.
Fortunately, Sakura Quest followed through on the promise of its first episode, offering a whole bunch more tourism bureau shenanigans sprinkled with melancholy reflections on adult life. It’s clear that Yoshino’s ideal of Tokyo is a fantasy, but it’s a fantasy we all want to believe in – that there are still opportunities waiting somewhere, still a clear path ahead if we can only find it. Sakura Quest undercuts that belief by setting itself in a town that inherently embodies all the evidence to the contrary. The boom has ended, the economy will never work for us the way it did for previous generations, and all we can do is enjoy the just-expired snacks. Sakura Quest taps directly into the resonance of that reality while staying light and charming throughout, a very rewarding feat.