Winter 2018 – Week 4 in Review

Aw shit I’m late it’s 10:40 and these posts go out at 9 crap crap crap. Alright, this week’s anime! The anime was good this week. That it was. Darling in the Franxx and After the Rain had somewhat bumpy episodes, but Laid Back Camp was as sturdy as ever, and March comes in like a lion headed off on its break with a quick reminder of just how lovable its cast really is. I actually fell behind on Violet Evergarden this week, but it’s kind of a struggle to keep up with shows I can’t write about for anyone, and considering After the Rain already falls into that category (and is like a million times better than Evergarden), hard calls had to be made. Outside of airing anime, I spent this week spamming through Myriad Colors Phantom World and starting off on some new Current Projects, activities which will both bear delicious wordy fruit for you guys at some point. Taking a break from anime to find time to watch more anime; it’s quite the respectable life I live. Anyway, let’s focus in on the airing shows for now, and RUN THIS WEEK DOWN!

This week’s Laid Back Camp repeated its now-familiar trick this week, contrasting another of Rin’s solo camping expeditions against Nadeshiko and the others faffing about in some hot springs. I’d normally expect a show like this to maintain a steady progression leading towards “the whole gang is camping together,” but I’m actually happy it’s keeping the group separate so far. Frankly, I’m significantly more engaged by Rin’s quiet trips than by Nadeshiko’s material; the other girls are fun, but it’s the stark, contemplative beauty and freeing tone of Rin’s adventures that is most unique and appealing to me about Laid Back Camp. The scenes of Rin driving to campsites and silently picking spots to cook dinner are actually my favorite scenes, as they possess a tonal immediacy that pretty much always returns me to a childhood of traipsing around my own local hills and forests. It’ll be nice to see Rin get closer to her new friends, but I wouldn’t mind more slice of lifes dedicated to this calmer stuff like Flying Witch over the more traditional “goofy times with friends.”

March comes in like a lion sailed off onto its hiatus with an episode that offered a little bit of everything, from moody sequences elaborating Souya’s muffled headspace to goofy times learning egg recipes with the Kawamotos. I actually really appreciated this episode’s grab bag of tones and turns, as the Kawamoto segment felt like a necessarily antidote to the oppressive Souya material, and Rei’s reunion with Nikaidou naturally underlined the differences between his potential life paths. Rei could very easily have become a shogi lost soul like Souya, someone who lives entirely on the board – but through people like Nikaidou and the sisters, he’s come to raise his head from his shogi mastery, and find other things to love in the world. March comes in like a lion is generally more focused on concrete, unique human conflicts than big thematic parallels, but Souya stands as a prominent and well-executed exception, personally embodying the loneliness of the peak. I enjoyed our time with the quiet king, but am looking forward to March finally getting to some comfy material again soon.

This week’s Darling in the Franxx sadly couldn’t match up to last week’s altogether solid episode, instead highlighting more of the show’s glaring weaknesses. This episode’s clear biggest problem was the fact that it centered on an emotional turn by Hiro that we had no reason to believe or invest in. Hiro’s already far too much of an empty everyman protagonist, but for sequences like him finally declaring his desire to ride with Zero Two, that’s not just a general problem, that’s a drama-defusing failing. On top of that, it is pretty much impossible to take Hiro and Zero Two’s sexy cockpit banter seriously, and the fact that the whole final fight was framed as “Hiro finding his wings” seemed to pretty much give away the fact that Zero Two is likely just a prop for Hiro’s journey. There’s still plenty that’s interesting about this show in a design sense, but its central metaphor is too hackneyed and character writing too flat for those strengths to carry the day. Darling in the Franxx continues to be a beautiful mess.

The journey actually commenced in this week’s A Place Further Than the Universe, leading to an episode that was half focused on highlighting the joy of travel and half focused on building up the relationship between Hinata and Shirase. This episode’s focus on Hinata’s feelings made sense, as her placement within the group has always been by far the most arbitrary – she basically just responded to Mari and Shirase’s enthusiasm with an immediate “me too!”, and hasn’t really had her full motivation or even character sketched out. Given that, my immediate assumption this episode was that she herself had “lost” her passport, and we’d be diving into her less happy emotions in a similar way to last week. But in the end, the focus was more on how Hinata and Shirase each act on their different but similarly stubborn natures, which to me felt like a bit too nebulous of a conflict to really latch onto.

Hinata told us that “she hates people being considerate of her,” but this episode only illustrated that as a reflection of her personality and history through one brief shot of her… being excluded at high school, I guess? Her feelings just lacked the immediately felt solidity of stuff like Mari’s insecurities, making this episode’s climax feel a little undercooked. That said, I really liked how this episode continued to illustrate Shirase’s unique character, and though this wasn’t a standout episode production-wise, it was still executed well enough. This wasn’t an emotional highlight, but it was still a reasonably successful episode.

And finally, After the Rain had its weakest episode this week, a weakness entirely prompted by Akira’s date with her jerk coworker Kase. Kase added a villainous and arbitrary “I hope they don’t discover my secret” style of conflict to a show that’s otherwise wholly dedicated to more subtle and emotionally driven storytelling, and I really hope that style of artificially injected drama doesn’t become a trend for the show. Fortunately, the rest of this episode was still just as compelling as ever. The first segment, focused on a slow afternoon at the diner, used some very long shots and subtle animation to effectively convey that sense of letting your thoughts wander as you’re waiting for a customer. Service jobs are tedious at times like this, but they are a specific kind of tedious, and After the Rain’s ability to capture that subtle experience really aided its general trapping-us-in-their-headspace goals. And the episode’s last act, where Kondo suffered through an uncomfortable date with Akira, made his unhappiness more understandable and sympathetic than any of his prior scenes. The Kase date felt like this story’s first misstep, but on the whole, After the Rain is still a terrific show.

One thought on “Winter 2018 – Week 4 in Review

  1. Her feelings just lacked the immediately felt solidity of stuff like Mari’s insecurities, making this episode’s climax feel a little undercooked.

    It may be because it hit so close to home personally, but I had a very different experience: when Hinata noticed something important was missing and hid that from the others, her personality immediately clicked for me. I’ve been in that place many times, with that sinking feeling after realizing that I’ve fucked something up and nobody else has noticed yet, evaluating if I can shoulder it by myself without making trouble for other people.

    That moment already seemed to me to illustrate Hinata’s discomfort with others worrying about her, and the impression just kept getting stronger during the episode as she was distracted trying to find her passport while also trying to hide that anything was wrong, until of course she came out and actually explained it to Shirase.

    It’s really interesting how these things can be really hit and miss based on personal experience.

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