Summer 2017 – Week 10 in Review

Let’s strap in for the week in review! We’re nearing the end of the season now, but it doesn’t really feel like it, at least from my perspective. With My Hero Academia simply ending a fairly minor arc and Tsuredure Children sticking largely to self-contained skits, Made in Abyss is the only show providing me with all that much closure – and even there, this week’s episode felt more like the introduction to a new stage in Riko’s adventure than anything truly final. But climactic or not, this week’s Abyss was a stunner in all regards, the dramatic payoff to all these weeks of knowing fandom titters. So let’s start right there, and then ramble our way through this week’s choicest offerings!

I’d been somewhat dreading Made in Abyss’s “dark twist” for weeks now, thinking it would likely play into the show’s unfortunate tendency for lines like “I’ll strip you up naked as punishment.” But in the end, this week’s turn was a long-awaited and perfectly executed reminder that this place isn’t forgiving, and trespassers will always be paid back in the end. Riko getting stabbed and poisoned was one of the most viscerally excruciating media experiences I’ve had in a while, somehow threading the needle of coming off as both terribly immediate and tactfully executed. It was both perfectly in character and fundamentally horrifying to see Riko urging Reg to first snap and then remove her arm, a piece of body horror both shocking and absolutely in line with this show’s established expectations.

It is very easy for sudden dark turns to feel cheap or out of place in a narrative, but both the danger of this place and Riko’s blunt acceptance of it have been built up all through this show. And Made in Abyss’s generally stellar execution knew exactly how much to show here – one shot of the injury, one later shot of her broken arm, and then a close focus on Riko and Reg’s own reactions to cover the gaps. I imagine this moment was extremely visceral in the manga as well, but Riko’s voice acting here really demonstrated how much anime can bring to the table. Made in Abyss has nailed its trickiest challenge yet.

My Hero Academia also had a fine episode this week, though this one was pretty much business as usual. The first two battles here were executed quite well, with Iida’s bout in particular feeling like a nicely executed coda to the Hero Killer arc. The Yaoyorozu-focused one felt a little more questionable to me though, and I’m not sure I can say exactly why. In the manga, I was actually a big fan of Yaoyorozu’s material, but here it felt slightly rushed and not entirely earned.

I feel like we spent less time in Yaoyorozu’s head here, which is typical for an adaptation, but this particular mini-arc needed pretty much all of its content to feel earned. I also felt the fanservicey nature of Yaoyorozu’s costume was kinda emphasized through a great deal of this episode’s shot framing, which further undercut her emotional narrative. It was still a “successful dramatic sequence,” but not a focus piece like it was in the manga. That may also come down to the dramatic requirements of this season – while it’s fine for any volume of a continuing manga to bring a lesser character to the front, for the conclusion of an anime season, it makes sense to prioritize the protagonist’s battle. Yaoyorozu may just have gotten the short straw by virtue of her story’s proximity to the season’s end.

Very surprisingly, Classroom of the Elite also had a solid episode this week, at least by the show’s own terms. After the last two episodes’ fanservice and expository drudgery, this week was all melodramatic adventures in a spooky jungle, letting both the show’s flare for Battle Royale shenanigans and occasional tongue-in-cheek comedy shine. I appreciated this episode consistently dunking on hero-man Ayanokoji, and felt both the setup and first conflicts of this Lord of the Flies arc were clearly articulated and engagingly executed. At its best, Classroom of the Elite actually can be some trashy fun. With any luck, this arc will end the season on a high note.

After last week’s unexpectedly dramatic twist, this week’s Tsuredure Children returned the show to its generally cheerful wheelhouse, pushing several couples just a little bit closer together. Chitose seems to be on the verge of recognizing her own emotions, which makes me think that her and Sugawara coming together might end up serving as the finale of the show altogether. That said, all three of this week’s current non-couples seem to be on the verge of dating or reconciliation, so it’s possible the show’s finale will just be an outrageous buffet of I’m Sorrys and I Love Yous. That will very likely kill me, but in the meantime, this episode consistently demonstrated Tsuredure Children’s mastery of character voice and understated management of body language. This show may be pure candy, but it is extremely well-crafted candy from start to finish.

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