Summer 2017 – Week 8 in Review

With My Hero Academia taking a week off before the final exam arc, there wasn’t all that much anime to actually watch this week. Made in Abyss maintained its usual speedy pacing and Classroom of the Elite was, er, itself, but that’s about all I’ve got to cover. I suppose it’s a good thing this week also had one last episode of Game of Thrones, or I’d be in real trouble filling out a reasonably article-length post for you all. But let’s start at the top with this week’s cartoons, and see where the rambling takes us!

Made in Abyss powered entirely through Riko and Reg’s training this week, matching the speed with which it’s done absolutely everything. Made in Abyss is fast paced, but it never really feels rushed – instead, its speed mostly just reflects the fact that many anime have conditioned us to treat protracted pacing as the norm. In contrast, this episode offered just enough time in the forest for Ozen’s ally to articulate Riko and Reg’s precise weaknesses – Riko’s tendency to believe she’s far more invincible than she is, and Reg’s fearful inability to take advantage of his own relative strength. Though it was underlined through dialogue, the episode also neatly articulated this in dramatic terms, through the two’s attempts to kill a big ol’ Abyss-hippo.

We also got a lot more material diving into Ozen’s relationship with Riko’s mother, which was likely my favorite part of the episode. Lyza has been a figure of myth through most of this series, which hasn’t been a failing of the narrative – many of the key pillars of this story operate on the level of vague myth, with the abyss itself acting as a central font of almost religious significance. The urge to claim the abyss is framed as fundamental to human ambition, and in Riko’s case, a literal biological imperative. But Ozen’s perspective brought Lyza into focus as an actual person, one who loved and was loved and accomplished great things and also made mistakes. Ozen’s clear love for Lyza made both of them feel that much richer, an excellent sendoff to one of Abyss’s most distinctive characters yet.

While Made in Abyss honed in on its strengths, Classroom of the Elite wallowed in its weaknesses, abandoning its usual self-serious tone for a pool episode that felt more grating than relaxing. The episode’s overall “we’re going to treat spying on girls like a Mission Impossible movie” conceit wore out its welcome within seconds, and outside of that, this episode mostly existed to pan over the girls’ breasts in bikinis over and over again. The few parts of this episode I actually liked were when the show riffed on its own standard absurdity, like when Kushida mentioned how the background thugs are interchangeable people, or when the student council president plummeted twenty feet in a bathing suit for no reason. I’m not sure the show would actually work if it was poking holes in its own aesthetic all the time, but those jokes were a light in the darkness in an episode that was otherwise pretty miserable.

Tsuredure Children also had a somewhat subpar episode this week, as several of this week’s featured couples seemed stuck in dramatic stasis. Tsuredure Children is often able to lean on its comedy in order to justify its lack of dramatic action, but this episode seemed determined to focus on the dramatic reality of not being able to get closer to your crush. All these sequences were relatively believable, but “believable” and “dramatically satisfying” are far from the same thing. I don’t think this signals a general negative trend for the show or anything, I’m just not sure it was wise to place all of these fairly similar and not terribly satisfying skits together in one episode.

Moving out of anime, Game of Thrones concluded its seventh season with an episode that was ultimately far more restrained than last week’s dragons-on-zombies madness. My biggest source of relief this week centered on Winterfell, where I was happy to see the show actually was doing a long con with Littlefinger, and Arya/Sanda hadn’t both been sabotaged for the sake of fake drama. Well, at least, not permanent fake drama – their conflict these past few weeks was fabricated almost solely to give the show an additional source of imaginary tension, but given the show had already decided to embrace that crap, I was happy to see it resolve gracefully. Game of Thrones has become a worse-written show pretty consistently over the years, but “Arya’s an idiotic mass murderer now” would have been a painful bridge to cross.

Outside of Winterfell, things were a bit more frustrating. Tyrion’s “maybe if we show Cersei a zombie, she’ll stop being the worst person in the universe” gambit was stupid from the start, and this episode spent a good forty minutes proving that point. Daenerys not only lost a dragon, but gave a dragon to the zombies in order to prove zombies are real, and this episode entirely nullified any positive results that trade might have provided. The Good Guys have essentially traded a dragon for Jaime Lannister, which, while satisfying for Jaime’s character, is probably not the best long-term call.

As with last week, many of the pleasures here were ultimately the small ones, centered on seeing characters who haven’t met for seasons finally reunite. The Hound and Brienne got a really good moment. Tyrion and Podrick got another. This show still has enough charming characters to keep me smiling, even if a lot of its overarching storytelling is really, supremely dumb.

Finally, Rick and Morty returned to its titular pair this week, in an episode that basically acted like a Rick/Morty-centric echo of the couples counseling episode. Rick and Morty ended up ridding themselves of everything they believed was toxic about themselves, resulting in an emotionally stable but also emotionally empty Rick and an utterly insecurity-free, ax-murderer-in-waiting Morty. I think this episode more or less hit the sweet spot this season has been striving for all along, where the first two seasons’ savage comedy and ambitious concepts are married to solid psychological interrogation of the central characters.

As usual, it was Morty who got the most interesting material here, and whose separation of “toxic” and “healthy” self was the most clear and compelling. This season has consistently demonstrated the ways Rick has influenced his grandson in a positive and negative way, and the fact that Morty’s own conception of a “healthy self” was so demented seemed like a clear reflection of Rick’s megalomania. I doubt I’ll return to this season’s episodes as often as the more comedy-focused first seasons, but they’re certainly a fascinating experiment.

3 thoughts on “Summer 2017 – Week 8 in Review

  1. Re: Rick and Morty. This season’s been a lot of what I wanted from the show: letting the characters’ personalities take focus the way the did back in season 1. While the overall vibe of this season is maybe my favorite, I do wonder how willing I’d be to revisit certain episodes.

    Seasons 1 and 2 are each full of great, worthwhile concepts. Season 3 is more one continuous psychological stride. There aren’t exactly great episodes anymore. Rickshank and Pickle Rick are greatly entertaining, but they don’t stand alone the way Anatomy Park and Auto Erotic Assimilation do.

    I guess I liked season 1 more than season 2 because each episode was establishing more about the setting and characters – it was lesson in what Rick and Morty is all about. Season 2 had the concepts, but I didn’t learn as much about everyone. Season 3 has been very revealing, so it’s an improvement over season 2 in that one department.

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