Summer 2017 – Week 7 in Review

The anime was all very respectable this week, maintaining an even course without really offering any major highlights or disappointments. Made in Abyss arrived at a necessary training arc, though given this show’s generally speedy pacing, that “arc” may just take one more episode. My Hero Academia was in exposition mode, but it still managed to offer some fun moments with the class. And Classroom of the Elite finally got as dramatically indulgent as it’s apparently always wanted to, topping off a series of grim inter-class showdowns with the introduction of some actual mad scientists. I complained about the show’s super hammy musical cues when I reviewed its first episode, but as it turns out, those musical cues turned out to be the only element of that episode that would truly indicate the show’s nature. But let’s start in the fringes of the abyss, and run this week down!

Made in Abyss revealed Ozen’s true nature this week, setting her up as the still-weird but ultimately supportive sensei character that Reg and Riko clearly need. I’ve had somewhat mixed feelings about Ozen for both of her episodes, mostly due to her hamtastic voice acting. Even if it’s over the top, I still like the way the show conveys her presence visually, and this episode’s scenes with Riko’s mother did a lot of work in making her into a real person. But her voice acting is just so inhumanly melodramatic that I still find it a little hard to buy into her as a character. That said, this episode’s actual dramatic turns were effectively sold, and our two leads definitely need to be more competent than they are if we’re to believe they can actually navigate the abyss. Riko in particular is pretty much already helpless at this depth, so I’m hoping this trial-by-fire training gives her a chance to become more of an active adventurer. And the show’s still gorgeous, so I can’t really complain.

Classroom of the Elite seemed to fully embrace its comfort zone this week, offering an episode full of high-stakes melodrama and foreboding speechifying. The resolution to Sudo’s conflict was executed with relative grace, Sakura was attacked by Crazy-Eyes McCameraStore, and the second and third years exchanged some delightfully heightened threats. Treated as a standard exploitation narrative with a very silly protagonist, Classroom of the Elite is actually turning out to be a pretty fun show. And with Ayanokoji’s dark secrets finally starting to come to the light, I’m hoping the second half will only ramp up the madness. The show has hung Ayanokoji’s past over our heads for half a season now, if they just briefly introduce “scifi experimentation childhood” and then move back to vague hints, I will be very disappointed.

My Hero Academia made the most of an episode that was largely dedicated to exposition, imbuing All Might’s backstory with just enough visual flair to keep things interesting. My Hero Academia can convey great nuance when it comes to its characters’ emotional journeys, but the larger worldbuilding mechanics of this world are a little shaky, a fact that’s exemplified by stuff like “once an extremely Bad Dude took over the world with a bunch of superpowers, but now all our history books don’t say anything about it.” That said, the contrast of All For One and One For All speaks to the thematic heart of the series, with the reveal that One For All has been purposefully passed down for generations making it a tangible representation of “heroism is doing great works that inspire other to great works as well.” This season’s kinda stuck moving through a fair amount of transition material, but it’s doing its best to keep things interesting.

And last up for anime, Tsuredure Children focused more on character development than comedy this week, demonstrating clear progression in two of its main couples. Goda and Kamine are likely the most believable couple in all of Tsuredure Children, and this week continued their focus on the smaller-stakes realities of attempting to understand your partner by slowly feeling out their comfort zones. Tsuredure Children’s gags are great, but it’s also nice that this show’s format allows it to emphasize sequences like theirs, where the “narrative stakes” of the situation are based entirely around getting to know each other in a non-confrontational way. The mechanics of narrative progression rarely allow such conflicts to become a scene’s focus, but in Tsuredure Children, simply figuring out how touchy-feely is too touchy-feely is as valid as any other conflict.

Game of Thrones slowed down its lightning-speed globetrotting this season, but still managed to fit an adventure north of the wall and back into one focused episode. I actually don’t mind Game of Thrones’ current breakneck pace, but the conversations between the magnificent seven this week did serve to remind me what we’re missing. Most of this episode felt like an excuse to simply put characters like Tormund Giantsbane and the Hound in a room together and see what happens, and I didn’t mind that at all. In spite of its recent speed, Game of Thrones was built on scenes like this, long sequences of characters alleviating their collective misery by sharing it with each other. It’s odd to call an episode that ended with dragons setting fire to an army of zombies a “low-key episode,” but the change of pace up until that sequence was pretty nice.

Wild adventures in the north aside, this week’s Arya-Sansa material was pretty much all nails on chalkboard to me. I can sort of understand how Arya would have avoided much emotional growth over her time learning to be a badass assassin, but her interrogations of Sansa were just so plainly stupid that it seemed difficult to square them with anything but “the writers need conflict in Winterfell.” If characters like Tormund and the Hound can become fast friends, it doesn’t feel like anything but narrative convenience that Arya and Sansa can’t have one honest conversation. It feels like the show has run out of characters who simply exist to cause misunderstandings, and so now Arya is being sabotaged just to keep things tense. My only real hope there is that this is all a fakeout, and Arya’s just setting up Littlefinger for a fall. I mean c’mon, she’s basically a faceless man – Littlefinger’s amateur corner-creeping shouldn’t even begin to fool her.

Finally, this week’s Rick and Morty felt like something of a return to the show’s traditional format, with its Jerry-centric A plot offering little in terms of emotional development. Jerry attempting to kill Rick essentially gave Rick an out for any of the self-reflection he might have been forced to undergo there, meaning that story was mostly comedy for its own sake (which certainly isn’t a bad thing!). The B plot was interesting to me mostly for what it implied about Morty’s development. Morty has clearly grown up a fair amount over this franchise, and the influence of Rick is clear both in his current competency and in the emotional shields he’s developed. The fact that Summer and her mom’s reconciliation was played off as a silly background gag while Morty threatened to torture someone felt pretty fitting – Morty is still Morty, but he’s had to become a lot less sensitive to survive in this world. I’m excited to see where his story goes.

3 thoughts on “Summer 2017 – Week 7 in Review

  1. Ack I can’t believe I’m here to talk about Game of Thrones, I guess the season is just that dry. Hopefully the new Kino’s Journey won’t be a let down.

    I’m really holding out for some sort of twist with the Arya-Sansa thing. Every time Arya comes on screen now I just wish for a world where the creators realized that her and the Hound were one of the best duos they’d stumbled across and just decided to keep them travelling together. They still could’ve gone to Bravos, but their banter and begrudging fondness of each other would’ve made the whole training ordeal much more interesting. Right now, at face value, it’s not just that her character has been taken in an obnoxious direction: it also feels like incredibly lazy writing riding on some of the most forced drama the series has ever had, and it bodes really ill for what’s to come.

    This episode also just felt really uninspired in the way it handled the escape scene. Having Jon stray from the pack for no good reason, sink into an icy lake, inexplicably surface AND get saved by a random timely Uncle Benjy who then just HAD to sacrifice himself for Jon–there was just SO much sloppiness going on there, and I mean, we’d just watched a dragon die. It was the worst time to try to get me to care about such gibberish Holywood antics.

    Perhaps the worst of the offenders though was Tyrion’s conversation with Dany. Tyrion is pretty much the show’s soul at this point: he represents a hero, who, as Dany said herself, is not a hero. He’s long-term-goal oriented, he actually thinks outside of the realm of “wouldn’t this zombie bear fight be cool” that the creators seem to be teetering on the edge of, and he pushes conversations out of the personal realm and more into the realm of theory and systems. Watching Dany snap at him for pretty much no justifiable reason felt like the show pretty much trying to push that kind of dialogue out the picture. “Let’s think long term” ; “oh, so you want me dead?” What? Dany is way smarter than that. That’s obviously not what he meant. It might just be part of her arc and we’ll see her have to learn to listen to him or something, but it was just… ugh, it was like the show was just coming up with a reason to shut him up. And it’s been doing this all season: almost all the ‘thinker’ characters: characters that lack immediate power (physical/political) have been relegated the back seat in the season where it feels like they should have the most significant roles.

    I’ve really loved Game of Thrones for a while now. It’s got plenty of issues, sure, but at its core its always had a diverse cast and a respect for its many different characters and their perspectives and talents. Sure its got the action heroes, but it’s also got the Sams and Varyses and Tyrions. It’s that balance of action and lengthy, contemplative dialogue that makes it work. Now, I feel like we’re drifting towards a full on fantasy-action show, and it’s making me sad. The banter has been great this season, but it’s mostly all been in the hands of our gruff fighter characters. We’ve got a big council scene next episode so hopefully that will alleviate some of my worries, but geez it stings to watch something you care about and have followed for so long falter like this.

  2. If you haven’t already, I’d recommend checking out some pages of the manga (chapters 14 and 15 – Kvin included some panels in the sakugablog article last week). Visually speaking, manga Ozen is really something special.

  3. I don’t mean to be an anime snob, but I really struggle to find shows that I enjoy in the American TV world. I like Game of Thrones, but it could be so much better than “solid, entertaining show.” I don’t really see very clear thematic elements being developed despite it already being so many season long.

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