Summer 2017 – Week 12 in Review

With Tsuredure Children having already ended, there really wasn’t all that much anime to sift through this week. We’re entering the seasonal Dead Zone now, where our only comforts are the shows that started awkwardly late, a procession of extended goodbyes that can sometimes stumble all the way into the following season. I’m certainly ready for this unfortunate season to end, but now that we’re at the brink, it’s tough to think that I’ll no longer be getting new weekly installments of My Hero Academia. The show’s second season has been a revelation after the somewhat questionable first act, consistently elevating inherently great material and just generally demonstrating how fun a good shounen adventure can be. With JoJo Part Five nowhere in sight and Hunter x Hunter far in the rear view, my weeks will be cloudier for lacking a great punch-stuff story. Symphogear, please rescue us soon.

Anyway, enough lamenting. Let’s start with the dregs and run this week down!

The bubble finally burst for Classroom of the Elite’s final arc this week, as we received an episode that hovered near the same range of tedium as the arc’s abysmal first episode. This didn’t really come down to uniquely bad narrative decisions or anything, though – it was mostly just a reflection of the fact that Classroom of the Elite’s aesthetic execution is not strong enough to support a pressure cooker episode. A show’s directional sensibilities don’t just elevate its material, they can often dictate its effective dramatic range. This episode attempted to raise tension through a slow build, but Classroom’s mix of too-slow conversations and relentlessly flat sitcom direction kept things from ever feeling all that exciting. Still, there was a pretty nice fight scene, and it looks like the finale’s reveals will be tumultuous enough to keep things interesting. Classroom has driven a very bumpy road, but we’re almost through with it now.

My Hero Academia pulled out all the stops for Deku and Bakugo’s battle with All Might. This fight was fun enough in the manga, but like with the Hero Killer arc, the combination of visual clarity and gorgeous animation offered by the anime handily elevated it above its source. Villain All Might was a terrific spectacle, and the marquee sequences of grappling, punching, and exploding were as dazzling as anything this show has offered. Narrative-wise, I think this episode did a pretty reasonable job of getting us in Bakugo’s head without either vilifying or exonerating him. Bakugo isn’t driven by an urge to help others – he’s driven by a thirst for personal achievement, straight up. But Bakugo also isn’t a simpleton – he’s just a kid with a huge amount of anger and a lot less ability to express himself. Even as his internal monologue stuck mostly to ranting about Deku, the instinctive reasoning behind all his tactical choices felt totally sound. At times, Deku actually came off as the presumptuous, luck-driven golden boy Bakugo must see him as. Bakugo’s character is an inherently hard sell, and I applaud this narrative for avoiding giving any easy excuses for his behavior.

On the other side of the fence, Made in Abyss’s penultimate episode felt weirdly anticlimactic. I know the perils of adapting continuing source material means that seasons can occasionally end in strange places, but focusing the show’s theoretically second-to-last episode on explaining the finicky parts of its worldbuilding still felt like a uniquely awkward choice. I don’t feel like I came out of this episode understanding the abyss in any sort of categorically different way, and I don’t see how Nanachi’s big quilt metaphor justified its own existence in any other way. Nanachi opened the episode with a dramatic “it’s time to show you the true nature of the abyss,” but the abyss turned out to work… pretty much exactly the way we already knew it did? More interesting was the material with Mitty, which trod an extremely Made in Abyss line between heartwarming and horrifying. If anything, I hope this episode’s firm anticlimax implies we’ve got a season two announcement coming.

After two straight weeks of wild high-concept episodes, it was a little disappointing to return to a “regular” episode for this week’s Rick and Morty. In spite of its significance for Jerry’s quasi-redemption arc, Jerry’s story here felt more like season one material – a relatively standard sitcom b-plot lifted only by individually sharp lines and setpieces. Rick and Morty itself seemed to understand that both Beth and Jerry’s stories hewed pretty closely to sitcom narrative archetypes, but its response to that was to simply lampshade both of them all the time (or lean on gross-out shock humor), which didn’t actually make those stories better.

Beth’s story was somewhat better, and her interactions with her father are always pretty interesting, but it felt like we jumped a step or two from Pickle Rick’s “I’m finally getting the fatherly love I wanted” to this episode’s ultimate “I am my father, and I need to escape this life.” I feel like this season has needed more Beth material in general, but the Beth material we’ve gotten hasn’t been quite as illuminating or cathartic as I’d hoped. That said, my complaints with this episode in part come down to how high this season has raised my expectations – back in season one, this would have felt like a perfectly fine episode. Much like golden age Community, Rick and Morty is mostly just competing with itself.

2 thoughts on “Summer 2017 – Week 12 in Review

  1. Made in Abyss has a 60 minute finale! 🙂 Makes me less worried that it’ll end awkwardly even with this episode treading water.

    Also, animals being able to sense The Abyss and use it as a sort of sixth sense seems like it has potential. Abyssians having evolved to use it for more mundane things than ‘murdering adventurers’ would be pretty neat to see.

  2. Although I acknowledge the quality and care of Made in Abyss’s production, I also feel that its incessant, overly-detailed world-building explanations totally suck the joy and mystery out of the story. How can I suspend my disbelief if the show won’t let me?

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