Hey all, and welcome back to the Week in Review. As I mentioned in last week’s post, this season’s utter dearth of watchable shows has left me without all that much material to riff on, meaning that for now, I’ll be extending the Week in Review to basically anything I’ve been up to media-wise over the last week. Even if airing shows aren’t giving me my fix, I am still a loyal consumer of all that nerd media we use to paper over the holes in our lives, and am happy to share my thoughts with you! But for now, let’s start off with the week’s actual anime hits, and see where the journey takes off.
First off, My Hero Academia finally ran into some of the most awkward material of its current arc – the actual fight with Stain. In theory, a battle pitting Midoriya and his friends against a ruthless professional villain should be thrilling, a perfect venue to demonstrate just how much they’ve grown over the tournament arc. In practice, the manga execution of this clash was muddled at best, hampered by awkward compositions, a lack of solid tension, and the base fact that Stain is boring both in terms of powers and philosophy.
The anime version couldn’t entirely buff up the fight, but it was an improvement. I actually felt the anime’s slower pacing helped for maybe the first time here, since spacing out the entrances of Midoriya and Todoroki made each stage of this fight feel significantly more impactful. Stain’s character also benefited from the medium switch, as the combination of music cues and appropriately melodramatic voice acting really helped sell his sense of presence. Stain is still a pretty stupid enemy, but this episode offered a reasonably executed fight in spite of holding to fairly conservative animation, which is its own kind of accomplishment. The show is doing the best it can here.
Made in Abyss had a perfectly satisfying episode as well, though in retrospect it felt mostly like one long wait for the ending. That’s not really Made in Abyss’s fault, of course. The show needed to establish these characters as people before sending them into the chasm, and it’s not a bad thing that the show’s ultimate promise (“we’re going to explore the coolest cave in the universe”) is so tantalizing and well-sold that the preamble feels interminable. While the background art of Riko’s hometown remained gorgeous, and the explanation of areas like the dockside slums offered vivid worldbuilding, the true star of this episode was that map of the abyss. Given the right execution, simply exploring an evocative fantasy world can be one of the most satisfying media experiences out there – and from its terrific musical interludes to its beautiful architecture and imaginative monster designs, Made in Abyss is being executed to perfection.
Classroom of the Elite‘s second episode played into the societal implications of its premise in a variety of interesting ways, which was a relief. The teacher’s framing of their class-eat-class world felt like a pretty one-to-one parallel of our own economic reality, where we’re pitted against people who are fighting for equally undervalued jobs in order to keep our ire aimed at anyone other than our actual masters. And Horikita’s thoughts on what they should do about the underachievers felt like a very sharp articulation of what these structures do to people, and what lines of thinking they lead us to embrace. That said, the show was still kinda shlocky in a variety of ways, which has me hoping it pulls the rare-but-terrific “simultaneously silly and sharp as hell” approach. We saw Tanya pull that off already this year, so there’s definitely a chance!
Outside of anime, I’m also joining the entire rest of the media-consuming world in watching Game of Thrones’ final season. So far, the season’s been… fine? After six seasons of suffering and buildup, pretty much everyone who exists in this world has been slotted into one of three existing alliances, meaning we’re finally getting the payoff of basically every imagined character conflict. Varys gets to speechify about his motives to Daenerys. Tyrion plots out a siege on King’s Landing while all the best warriors in the world listen attentively. Jon Snow gets to punch Petyr Baelish. Arya kills all the folks who need killing. With every minor “I represent conflict, but not the final conflict” character blown up or eaten or set on fire or cut in half, nearly every scene is “I wish these two characters would someday chat” payoff. It’s kind of strange watching a season that in its entirety feels like an indulgent concluding chapter, but it’s not an unpleasant feeling!
I also picked up Persona 5, the last holdout of this year’s absurdly bountiful first videogame quarter. I held off for a long time on getting it because I figured I don’t have time for a mega-length JRPG anymore, but given I’ve pretty much entirely lost interest in Overwatch, I needed something to play. So far, I’ve been having a really great time with it – I haven’t even reached the point where it feels like I’m doing anything more than following a story on rails, but as it turns out, Persona stories are a whole lot of fun.
It’s odd to say, but I feel like my favorite thing about the game so far are its spectacular menus. The game is stylish in all respects, but the sleek cool and smooth transitions of the menus most flawlessly captures the game’s intended tone. The character art is also gorgeous, and while the dialogue can be kinda bumpy, I like pretty much every member of the cast that’s been introduced so far (though I am already tired of the cat’s battle quips). I don’t know if I’m in it for the long haul (my attempts to beat Persona 3 were eventually crushed by the sheer weight of grinding busywork these games ask of you), but I don’t regret these early hours of this anime-on-wheels.