Summer 2017 – Week 5 in Review

The hits just kept coming this week, a week that answered the desperately unnecessary question “what happens when you’re only watching a couple shows and even those aren’t very good.” This wasn’t exactly a bad week in anime, but when your season is already dangling by a thread, you can’t really afford to have lukewarm performances. The show that overperformed this week was Game of Thrones, so I guess that’ll once again be tying the whole Week in Review room together. We are living through some desperate times here, but I’m gonna fill that goddamn word count somehow.

First off, Classroom of the Elite suffered a very unwelcome step down this week. The show’s been essentially one step down after another so far, which hasn’t been very surprising. Classroom began at “this could be good if it somehow leaned into its more interesting elements and avoided its weaker ones,” and its subsequent episodes have basically seen it stoically trudging right into those weak links. The show’s inter-class drama is silly and characters thinly written, so of course this week saw the show fully dedicated to a minor classmate’s inter-class drama. The actual “this school echoes the tyranny of society” stuff seems to have become an afterthought, meaning the show’s most enjoyable quality now might be its veneer of knowing camp. It’s a watchable show, but we only have so many years on this earth.

Next up, My Hero Academia didn’t exactly have a bad episode, but it was very clearly a “tidying up the previous arc” episode from the title on down. That meant that instead of anything equivalent to the last few episodes’ major battle sequences here, the pleasures here were smaller things, little asides that were largely unchanged from the manga. The dog-headed chief of police is always a good time, but it was perhaps most satisfying to see Todoroki fully integrated into the show’s core friend group. Midoriya, Ochako, and Iida are a strong enough trio, but Todoroki’s character has been so satisfyingly explored by the sports festival arc that it feels rewarding just seeing him enjoy a healthy relationship with friends. One slight letdown was how flatly this episode conveyed how completely All Might is terrified of Gran Torino, but the show in general has had a bit of trouble capturing the precise mastery of unlikely expression work that makes All Might so consistently moe. On the whole, I feel like this adaptation has turned what was a frankly not very good arc into one that, while still not comparable to the story’s highs, feels reasonably integrated among them.

Made in Abyss continued its heroes’ journey into the abyss proper, which for the first time actually prompted me to feel a little narrative trepidation. Everyone who’s actually read the manga seems to have been surviving on an unfiltered diet of smug “oh, just wait” comments over the past month, which I’d been charitably assuming was just a sign the show would eventually get suddenly and gruesomely violent. The actual violence in this episode was handled wonderfully – the reveal of this episode’s desiccated corpse was the perfect kind of barely-there horror that anime often has trouble conveying, offering just enough implied gore to really sell the danger of this place. But then Rico spent five minutes walking around with no shirt and pigtails blocking her nipples, which left me pretty nonplussed. Rico and Reg are actual children, but Made in Abyss has been weirdly sexual from its first episode. I can handle some weird narrative turns, but an overall tenor of “jeez, this sure was written by a lolicon” is a bit tougher to handle. Don’t make me regret introducing this one to my housemates, Made in Abyss.

Finishing up the anime, Tsuredure Children at least was as consistent as ever. The sequence that really surprised me this time was the one starring the googly-eyed boy and his nerdy friend. I didn’t really expect a bunch of kinda samey “us nerds don’t need girls” gags to feel charming, but the new friend’s unerring support of Googly-Eye’s journey into adulthood was so endearing that it all won me over pretty handily. I also appreciated that they gave the melodramatic blonde kid an admirer just as melodramatic as he is, underpinning the show’s clear belief that there’s someone out there for everybody. Tsuredure Children feels like the show itself is beaming pretty much all the time.

And jumping out of anime territory, this week’s Game of Thrones was indeed a stunner. My expectations for Game of Thrones have somewhat shifted over the years. Initially skeptical of an adaptation of what was at the time one of my favorite series, within a couple seasons it felt likely that Game of Thrones would actually become the definitive version of Song of Ice and Fire, having shaved off a fair amount of the original novels’ awkward edges. More seasons and a variety of narrative dead-ends later, along with having grown as a critic and general media consumer over time, at this point I’m happy to have Game of Thrones just be satisfying pulp. And between Arya dueling with Brienne and Daenerys setting the entire Lannister army on fire, this episode was certainly satisfying pulp.

Game of Thrones has pretty much given up on being a consistently shocking narrative puzzle – having moved firmly beyond the pages of Martin’s sometimes indulgent but consistently inventive narrative, we’re now running into simplistic story-solving devices like “Euron goes everywhere and kills everything” and “Jon’s request for dragonglass happens to result in him finding indisputable evidence of the White Walkers’ existence.” That shit is hacky, but Game of Thrones on the whole is kind of hacky. What I want from it is satisfying payoff for its many long-building threads, and we are definitely receiving that. “Arya is going to be the biggest badass in the seven kingdoms” is a promise I’ve been waiting to see fulfilled for longer than this show has actually existed. Seeing her duel confidently with Brienne was something I’ve literally been waiting a decade for. If it keeps giving me candy like that, I’ll forgive any number of convenient contrivances necessary to bring this story home.

2 thoughts on “Summer 2017 – Week 5 in Review

  1. ” Don’t make me regret introducing this one to my housemates, Made in Abyss.”

    I don’t think you need to worry too much – the pace of the adaptation means that the (by far) most objectionable content will probably not make it into the anime.

  2. I wasn’t too keen on Arya’s whole class-change storyline from the last couple seasons, but hot damn if her walking back into Winterfell as a Level 99 Rogue and dueling Brienne to a standstill wasn’t one of the most satisfying moments in the show so far.

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