Things stayed at a pretty even keel for this week in anime, with my precious surviving shows offering neither stunning highlights nor frustrating failures. In The Eccentric Family’s case, the fact that this episode wasn’t a standout was itself kind of a disappointment – this was the final episode, after all, and so if this season had any pretensions of matching the original, now was the time. But overall, this week mostly just demonstrated that shows like Sakura Quest or Re:Creators have become very adept at maintaining their good-but-not-great dramatic ratios. With The Eccentric Family suffering a pretty meaningful decline from the first season, there’s nothing here that seems likely to claim the top spot of the year. Alright Kemono Friends, you’ve still got a chance!
This week’s Tsuki ga Kirei was just one more confirmation that this is likely the most consistently strong show of the whole damn season. I wouldn’t say “best” show, and I don’t think it’s had any highs that match stuff like Deku versus Todoroki, but week after week, Tsuki ga Kirei has chugged along in its thoughtful, intimate, and consistently well-observed way. This time, Kotarou’s mom actually got the spotlight, and her story was told with as much finesse as ever. Tsuki ga Kirei’s somewhat distant, adolescence-aware perspective has often let it find strong comedy in the trials of Akane and Kotarou, and here that same sense of perspective let it underline how hard Kotarou’s mom works, in spite of his own pouty protestations. “Quietly excellent” is a phrase that could describe a vastly disproportionate percentage of my favorite shows, and Tsuki ga Kirei is in very good company.
My Hero Academia ran through one of the most charming segments of the manga this week, which was pretty much note-for-note identical in anime execution. The sequence of Class 1-A all choosing their hero names is a great segment in either medium, and the fact that this segment was stretched out to half an episode really didn’t matter, since the character voices more than made up for the protracted pacing. On top of that, the finale sequence focused on Iida actually made me somewhat hopeful the anime will eclipse the manga here. Iida’s descent into single-mindedness was played perfectly straight in the manga, but in anime form, the slowly building background music and focus on key shots like Iida’s footsteps in puddles gave the sequence a sense of real dread that the manga didn’t quite reach. I felt this arc was a bit of a stumble for the manga, so I’m excited to see the anime offer an alternate take. At the very least, if we get another episode or two to rival the Deku-Todoroki fight, that’ll still be a lovely reward.
Having given every member of our main tourism crew their own dedicated arc, this week’s Sakura Quest saw the show transitioning into a more all-around narrative conceit, moving into mockumentary style for the leadup to a big festival. Pretty much the whole cast has earned their confidence in their various positions by now, which made it inherently rewarding to see them demonstrate those proficiencies on-camera. Shiori in particular feels like a real pillar of the team now, while Ririko, Maki, and Sanae’s gains were articulated more in the form of their emotional confidence. This wasn’t an isolated stunner like last week, but it was confident, funny, and tightly paced. Sakura Quest’s production seems to be kind of mirroring its own protagonists’ journeys – there were some stumbles at the start, but it’s been gaining confidence all along the way.
The Eccentric Family 2 came to a close this week, offering an ending as warm and bittersweet as this whole season has been. The Eccentric Family 2 reminds me of one of Dan Harmon’s thoughts on directing Community. To vaguely paraphrase: “we were always making pizza. Not every episode was a masterpiece, but even the worst episodes were still pizza, and everybody loves pizza.” This was a pizza season for Eccentric Family – not the awe-inspiring performance of the first one, but still some extremely tasty pizza. Sequences like Benten and Nidaime acting like the big children they are in their fight, or Yasaburou finally acknowledging his feelings for Kaisei, were their own visceral rewards. Things didn’t really come together in that much of a thematically satisfying way (outside of the great scene between Nidaime and Akadama), but the individual scenes here were all lovely times. It’s always nice to see an old friend again.
Re:Creators was another big talk fest this week, but at this point, if you haven’t accepted that’s the show’s general mode of storytelling, I don’t really know why you’re watching. It’s actually pretty interesting to consider how this show was constructed, given Rei Hiroe’s Black Lagoon is a much more narratively propulsive story. The fault presumably has to fall with Ei Aoki, given pretty much all of his recent shows have fallen into this talkfest style, and Fate/Zero in particular was the exact same thing. It’s hard to imagine a directorial style less well-suited to, well, pretty much anything.
That aside, my own highlight of this episode was Alicetaria’s conversation with her creator. Given she comes from a story where death follows suffering follows blood follows betrayal, it felt brutally appropriate that her creator refused to acknowledge his own emotions even while being suspended off the edge of a horse in the middle of the sky. Stories like that don’t come from nowhere – if you write a story that smirks at positivity and feelings altogether, there’s likely some serious personal repression going on there. Re:Creators may be messy as hell, but I’m still pretty entertained by its view of the creative process.