After a serious dip in general show quality, the anime returned to something of a neutral setting this week, lifted largely on the back of The Eccentric Family’s terrific performance. Sakura Quest, My Hero Academia, and Re:Creators were all just kinda middle-of-the-road, though their particular brands of middle-of-the-road all gave me unique things to talk about. So in terms of this particular article, I guess you guys once again get to reap the benefits of less than stellar cartoons. This season isn’t ending as well as it started, but basically none of them do – it’s a whole lot easier to make a great first episode than it is to make a consistently satisfying full season narrative. Let’s start out in the weeds of Manoyama and run this week down!
This week’s Sakura Quest was pretty much all setup for Ririko’s arc, along with the show’s usual tourism-related shenanigans. It was actually nice to see Yoshino and the gang handle a fairly traditional tourism issue, offering a guided tour of Manoyama to a few city girls. The group has grown consistently into their current confidence with their jobs, meaning that it’s inherently satisfying to see Yoshino articulate her growth through handling this challenge so easily.
As for Ririko, I guess we’ll just have to see where this arc goes. Unlike the last two focus characters, Ririko’s problems don’t really seem to reflect on either the fate of Manoyama at large or the realities of finding a career path – she’s just a shy girl who isn’t good at expressing herself. Her conflict seems more fitting for a high school drama than a young adult one, but on the other hand, I also don’t mind that so much of her conflict is being expressed entirely without words, and in the margins of the tourism stuff. But it’ll be up to the next episode to find something universal and Sakura Quest-relevant in her struggles.
Tsuki ga Kirei introduced some approaching clouds this week, dampening our lovebirds’ happiness with the threat of Akane moving away. That was a kind of necessary introduction in an overarching narrative sense, but as far as this episode specifically goes, I greatly enjoyed seeing how much more comfortable Akane and Kotarou have become spending time together. Their date at the bookstore this week was infinitely more natural than their first date, with the two of them sharing both conversation and physical space in a confident, warm, and well-articulated way. The precision of Tsuki ga Kirei’s small interactions has allowed it to build a very solid and consistent narrative of familiarity, making simple things like the ease with which they jump between topics feel like a real victory. Tsuki ga Kirei really demonstrates how any stakes can feel meaningful if the execution is there.
This week’s My Hero Academia was both reasonably executed and somewhat inherently saddening. Not in terms of the narrative content, but rather because of what I already know about the coming episodes. To be frank, it seems very likely that season two peaked with last episode – even if the execution of these upcoming episodes is strong, the story just doesn’t get better than Deku’s fight with Todoroki, at least until past the point where I’m at in the manga. And beyond that, I’m also a little worried about how the show will handle Stain’s future appearances.
Like Shigaraki before him, Stain is a villain whose visual design relies on a kind of ragged, body-horror style that doesn’t really translate well to the anime’s crisp, clean designs. There wasn’t really much sense of menace in his appearance here, and I think that largely came down to the fact that the manga’s detailed art and forceful shading don’t really come across in the anime. Still, if the anime can lend some coherence to the brief upcoming arc, it could possibly eclipse the somewhat messily executed manga version. And as far as this episode goes, they once again burned through almost half a dozen matches in a way that felt sensible, not rushed.
The Eccentric Family recovered from last week’s middling installment with a focused and charming episode, offering a diverse buffet of pretty much all the things that make this show great. There was some of its original episodic adventure appeal, in Yajiro’s adventure with the girl who loves holes. There were pensive reflections on family, courtesy of Yaichiro’s terrific flashback to a conversation with dad. And there was plenty of comedy and immediate drama as well, articulated through Yasaburo’s strong conversations with Gyokuran and Kaisei.
While I haven’t felt this season is quite as tightly composed as the original, that’s almost an inescapable reality of second seasons for shows that don’t need second seasons. And I feel the way this season has equally highlighted all three of the eldest Shimogamo brothers has been a real treat. Season one was very much Yasaburo’s story, with Benten likely standing as the second most important character, whereas this season has given much more material to both his brothers and various other members of the extended family (mainly Kaisei and Gyokuran). The Eccentric Family has one of the richest worlds I’ve seen in anime, and I’m happy to see it extend its dramatic scope.
Finally, I had pretty mixed feelings on this episode’s Re:Creators. On the one hand, this was a perfectly fine episode in its own right. The highlight was easily Sota’s speech to Alicetaria, where he offered a fine defense for Alicetaria’s own story, and its importance in the real world. That was the kind of multi-level, “works as narrative but also works as articulation of the meaning of storytelling” stuff that I’m pretty much watching this show for. The show also revealed that true character revisions worked in exactly the way you’d expect – creators can’t just revise their creations willy-nilly, those revisions have to resonate with the audience. Necessary reveals landing at dramatically appropriate times are a good thing.
On the other hand, this episode also did nothing to dispel the fact that the show’s current dramatic thrust is “Alicetaria is extremely stupid, and things will stay bad until she stops being stupid.” The fact that her realizing Meteora is willing to sacrifice herself for others was framed as a dramatic point here was actually disappointing to me, as that implies they’re gonna make a whole big deal about her slowly realizing she’s on the side of all the cackling villains. And on top of that, Magane is still just pretty bad – not only is she a one-note character, but her power is “becomes powerful if the stupid protagonists answer her obviously loaded questions.” Re:Creators is putting essentially all its dramatic eggs in “characters keep acting stupid” baskets, and there is very little less satisfying than that. I’ll still give it another episode, but while this was a reasonable exercise for its own sake, it offered nothing but bad signs for the show going forward.