Hey all, and welcome back to the Week in Review. We’re somehow approaching the halfway point of another season, and things are still looking pretty solid in anime land. I’ve got Tsuki ga Kirei and The Eccentric Family for my character stories, Sakura Quest and Re:Creators offering some interesting ideas, and My Hero Academia to just be a generally entertaining time. That’s pretty much everything I ask for in a season, and so as of this moment, I’d say anime is pretty okay. Let’s start off in the tumbleweeds of Manoyama and run this week down!
This week’s Sakura Quest felt about par for the series – a little unfocused and sometimes too convenient in its narrative resolutions, but also stuffed with lots of fatigued reflections on adulthood and professional life. One of my favorite things about this episode was how much time was devoted to Sanae just kind of wandering the town and reflecting, trying to find her own reason to be in Manoyama. Sakura Quest isn’t really equipped to “solve” the problems it raises, but simply capturing the lived experience of a fraught professional existence is already a very worthy goal. The focus on woodcarving also felt more naturally integrated this week, and less an “old versus new” dilemma than simply another key facet of the town. The show is walking a difficult line between offering conveniently packaged victories and legitimately engaging with its impossible conflicts, but I think its tone of “optimism, but also we’re all replaceable and nobody has money anymore” is working out okay so far.
Tsuki ga Kirei offered another strong episode this week, centering on the relatable and under-explored drama of “alright, we’re dating. Now what do we do?” Sequences like Akane and Kotarou googling how relationships work speak to the heart of Tsuki ga Kirei’s awkward, adorable charm. And there was also plenty of the small dashes of character acting and observation of conversational breaks that make this show’s conversations seem so real. I’ve said before that realism isn’t always good or necessary in fiction, but it certainly can facilitate certain goals, and it’s perfectly appropriate for this kind of intimate and precisely focused character drama. Plus any episode where Kotarou boxes with his ceiling light has gotta be pretty good.
The Eccentric Family offered a reprise of last season’s aerial battle, which came with both pluses and minuses. On the negative side, portions of this episode felt pretty close to direct retreads of beats we’ve seen before – and on top of that, they were beats directed by the goddamn Ebisugawa twins. In a show that’s otherwise a stellar example of thoughtful character writing, the twins always, always stick out like a sore thumb. They are both annoying to listen to and annoying in a storytelling sense. They’re easily the weakest part of the series.
On the other hand, everything surrounding their appearance was pretty great. The buildup to the festival featured lots of strong family moments, and seeing Akadama actually come through for his pupils was wonderful. Benten also came off as more vulnerable here than ever before, which was a nice shift for her character. The original author of Eccentric Family has claimed that Benten simply represents the “mysterious, unknowable nature of women,” at least from his perspective, but Benten has always felt more like an extremely specific person to me. She’s brittle and insecure and very lonely, and I’m hoping this season ultimately helps her find some emotional security.
My Hero Academia had a somewhat unavoidable lull episode this week, as it basically tidied and reset the dramatic board to prepare for the single-elimination tournament. As this was mostly just a series of monologues lifted directly from the manga, it didn’t really offer that much to bite into, but I did enjoy hearing Midoriya articulate his evolving feelings on heroism. The show has consistently emphasized that the essence of heroism is inspiring others – but here, in response to Todoroki pretty much baring his soul, Midoriya arrived at the other side of that coin. While Todoroki is fighting to free himself from the expectations of his father, Midoriya acknowledges that it’s the faith others have placed in him that gives him a reason to fight, and actually makes him strong. That statement pretty much completes the cycle of heroism – our great acts inspire others to greatness, and then their faith in us propels us forward in turn. I’m still very much in love with the philosophy of My Hero Academia.
Re:Creators continued at its steady pace this week, and finally acknowledged the fact that the Japanese government probably has a thing or two to say about fictional characters blowing up skyscrapers. The introduction of a government task force was handled about as gracefully as possible – an exciting raid gave way to grounded negotiations, courtesy of Meteora’s quick thinking and steady leadership. Meteora has swiftly become Re:Creators’ functional protagonist, generally acting as the consistent voice of the “good guys’ party.” She’s so good at what she does that I’m starting to fear for her safety – considering she’s already undergone a solid personal arc and is single-handedly keeping this group together, it seems likely enough that the show will murder her to keep things interesting. But Meteora’s safety aside, this episode was classic Re:Creators: a whole lot of talking, but talking with enough dramatic interest that it more or less justified itself. So far, Re:Creators seems like a much improved rewrite of Fate/Zero.