The conclusion of Game of Thrones’ mini-season sadly means these week in review posts will be shrinking again. Fortunately, the shows I still have to talk about were pretty much all excellent this week, offering a varied sample of distinctive pleasures. My Hero Academia started off on an exciting new mini-arc, Made in Abyss constructed a “filler episode” that was more satisfying than plenty of its normal episodes, and Tsuredure Children kept up its endearing shenanigans. Really the only outlier was Classroom of the Elite, and we don’t talk about Classroom of the Elite. Let’s start down in the abyss and work our way up through this week in anime!
If I hadn’t learned from friends online that this week’s Made in Abyss was anime-original material, I’d have completely believed it was part of the original story. Though “filler” generally implies material that could be excised from a narrative with no loss, I actually felt this episode’s point – getting Riko to understand how entirely she relies on Reg – was something the show’d been desperately needing for a while now. Riko has survived through luck and Reg’s timely interference, and the lack of a healthy respect for her own mortality was one of the biggest things holding her back (and also straining the narrative’s credulity). Forcing her to go on a solo adventure and almost suffer terrible consequences was an excellent way for her to learn this in a tangible sense, as opposed to being told it and then ignoring it whenever she saw the next cool thing.
On top of that, Rico’s Big Day was also just a very fun outing in all regards. All this episode really had to do was move them from the top to the bottom of the shaft, and yet this episode conjured an entire coherent ecosystem within the walls of the shaft, along with offering a sequence of distinct challenges with clear stakes all along the way. The abyss itself is Made in Abyss’s biggest draw, so I’d be happy to see more episodes that dive into the mechanics of this world’s various sub-areas. When your world is this thrilling, I’m happy to see worldbuilding take a central role in the narrative – and given how well this episode balanced the thrill of discovery, immediate drama, and character development, I feel this staff are fully capable of expanding on the story they’ve been given.
My Hero Academia’s latest episode was less thrilling for its own sake, and more exciting for what it introduced. Class 1-A’s final exams were another kinda lukewarm arc in the manga, but I felt this episode’s clear focus on first the written and then practical exams gave the drama a clarity it somewhat lacked in the original. The My Hero Academia manga is terrific, but the anime has consistently benefited from some slight bits of well-chosen narrative polishing, choices that make the audience’s intended focus a bit more clear. The sequence introducing all the pairs and their opponents gave this arc a narrative hook as clean and compelling as the sports festival arc, and I’m looking forward to the show hopefully expanding a bit on the less-celebrated class members’ various battles. Like Made in Abyss, My Hero Academia is at times a story that could benefit from “filler,” if it gives us more of the things the show is good at. I’m excited to see how the staff handle this final arc.
Tsuredure Children also had a very fine episode this week, digging deep into the Goda-Kamine and Chiaki-Kana relationships to offer the most progression-heavy episode yet. I hadn’t really expected this show to go much further than “young love is super adorable,” but this episode’s last sequence actually offered one of the more thoughtful depictions of unhealthy intimacy I’ve seen in anime. Even in a show that’s largely dedicated to framing romantic blunders as hilarious, a clear line was drawn between misunderstandings and disregarding your partner’s boundaries. I’m glad Tsuredure Children cares about its characters enough to afford them that respect.
Of course, what goes up must come down, and this week’s Classroom of the Elite was undoubtedly the down part. Forgoing its usual focus on overwrought melodrama and underwritten characters, this week’s episode mostly did… nothing? This was basically all setup for the coming desert island arc, but the show built up to that arc by simply having all the side characters grimace and snarl at each other, helpfully reminding us that this show does indeed have characters. Classroom of the Elite is all-around a pretty terrible show, but it’s normally not nearly this boring, at least. Hopefully next week will return us to the schlocky but energetic drama the show does best.