Spring 2017 – Week 7 in Review

Look, this season is just great, guys. I don’t know how many times I can say it. A season that’s simultaneously airing one of My Hero Academia’s best arcs, the sequel to one of my favorite shows ever, and the spiritual successor to Shirobako would frankly have a damn hard time being bad. Even with Tsuki ga Kirei taking the week off, there were no shortage of high points this week – Sakura Quest had one of its best episodes, My Hero Academia ran through an entire goddamn tournament bracket, and even Re:Creators pulled off some of its most rewarding conversations yet. This is a fine time to be an anime fan!

Alright, let’s get right to it.

Sakura Quest had another excellent episode this week, offering some satisfying unconclusions to both Maki and Shiori’s immediate conflicts. My prevailing concern regarding this show has been that it’ll settle for pat, convenient answers too often, but I think both Maki and Shiori’s arcs were handled with the nuance and ambiguity these subjects demand. Shiori sorta-maybe came to terms with a beloved childhood monument getting burned down, but her vague “maybe the old lady would have liked to see her house preserved this way” felt mostly like trying to find meaning in a situation that won’t provide any. Shiori is more closely tied to this town than any of the other leads, but she’s not able to come cleanly to terms with what “saving” the town might demand.

Maki’s story was a little more traditional, but all she really arrived at was some measure of hope for the future – she herself acknowledges that simply liking a pursuit isn’t enough, and her final thoughts only really go so far as “just becoming an actor because I like acting won’t work, but those feelings are still valid.” Clutching at half-victories, seeking morals in meaningless ennui, and consoling ourselves with beer after the fact sounds pretty true-to-life to me.

My Hero Academia burned down half of the goddamn tournament this week, powering through five separate matches in one twenty minute rush. I think this episode did a pretty great job of managing the contrasting priorities of both articulating the exciting tactical choices of these matches and also powering through to get to the story-relevant fights. The highlight was likely Mina’s fight with laser boy, which combined reasonable tactical decision making with the episode’s best animation to result in a very punchy battle. It was also nice seeing Ochako demonstrate new sides to her personality, and watching what started as insecurity relative to her friends transform into a renewed dedication to her own path. This arc really does bring all of My Hero Academia’s strengths together, succeeding equally well as an action buffet and a character story.

I also watched this week’s Attack on Titan, which was unfortunately a pretty boring time. Titan’s wholesale reliance on twists to carry its narrative means that when things aren’t either being punched or revealed, the whole show kinda sags. There was no forward momentum in this episode, no action highlights, and the attempts at character work just kinda underlined the one-note nature of this show’s character writing. Episodes like this tend to fade in memory, but they’re one of the many reasons Titan just doesn’t thrill me. But hey, at least we got that very silly scene of Mikasa and Armin getting angry about crackers.

The Eccentric Family pulled off a real shocker this week, straight-up killing off the show’s most consistent villain. I didn’t expect Soun to die so soon after reappearing, but I thought the execution of his downfall here was excellent nonetheless. Yasaburo ultimately avenged his father in the most complete way possible, not only directly contributing to Soun’s death, but even stealing Soun’s final consolation right out from under him. And yet, in the end, he still couldn’t help but shed a tear for his uncle. This week’s final scene accomplished the commendable task of finding tragedy in the death of a truly unrepentant villain, an act that will likely shift the balance of power among Kyoto’s tanukis. With the show’s original antagonist well and truly gone, I’m eager for whatever the future holds.

Things were pretty much par for the course over in Re:Creators – a whole bunch of extended conversations, but conversations so fascinating that they easily justified their own existence. The two highlights for me were the discussion between the current creators about the identity of the Military Uniform Princess and Mamika’s speech at the end. Regarding the first one, it was interesting to see the team directly acknowledge that the Princess could well be a fan-created character, offering a neat meta wrinkle in what all this says about the relationship between creator, creation, and creation as it exists in a larger social space.

As for Mamika, pretty much any character who says something like “Believing in things might be stupid. But some things can be solved by believing. Doing that isn’t stupid in this world, either” is bound to rocket up my favorite characters list. Mamika very overtly brings the spirit of world-aware hope that defined Madoka Magica into Re:Creators, and I’m endlessly grateful to have her here. It is wonderful to see a show with a plot and aesthetic like Re:Creators acknowledge that there is something insightful and powerful in the heart of Mamika’s optimistic philosophy.