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!

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Why It Works: My Number is My Name: Finding Warmth in the World of FRANXX

Today on Crunchyroll, I finally took some time to poke at Darling in the Franxx’s big thematic contrast, the conflict between the sterile world of Franxx’s overseers and the intimacy its actual stars attempt to bring to that world. As far as this conflict goes, the show is doing a pretty solid job of establishing a coherently puritanical society, and the ways the kids push back against that order feel natural as well. The main problem so far is that the character writing just isn’t there yet – shows predicated on a concept like this need the “human element” of the kids’ interactions to dramatically sell their perspective, and Franxx’s stars still feel too archetypal to get there. But if Hiro can be turned into an actually compelling protagonist, there could be a reasonable show here yet!

My Number is My Name: Finding Warmth in the World of FRANXX

One Piece – Volume 16

One Piece’s sixteenth volume opens with the team in crisis. Having sailed to the island of the former Drum Kingdom in search of a doctor, they discovered the only doctor here lived on top of a towering mountain. Strapping the sickly Nami to his back, Luffy set off with Sanji at his side, fighting through snow drifts and giant killer rabbits on the way to the summit. But then, before they could arrive, their movements prompted a mighty avalanche. And so we find our heroes sprinting back down the mountain, time ticking down with the storm at their backs.

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Scorching Ping Pong Girls – Episode 2

Alright, let’s get right back to Scorching Ping Pong Girls! The show’s premiere was mostly just fine, succeeding well enough as a genre setup, but not really excelling in terms of either its aesthetics or its storytelling. The show’s greatest quality so far might be its charming character designs, but those aren’t really a strength that will keep paying new dividends in future episodes. My main hope for the show is that it will double down on its sports drama pretensions, as everything related to ping pong in the first episode was better than pretty much everything related to slice of life or comedy. Agari has already been set up as a satisfyingly flawed competitor with plenty of room to grow, Koyori stands as a fine foil, and the premiere’s brief tidbits of actual strategy implied to me that this show genuinely cares about making its ping pong matches parsable and exciting. I love it when things are parsable and exciting! Let’s dive right in to episode two, and see how Agari handles no longer being the team’s unquestioned darling.

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Chihayafuru – Episode 24

It’s time for Chihayafuru! The last episode was mostly just a check-in episode that pushed all the characters slightly further down their non-karuta-related personal arcs. It wasn’t a standout, but those rarely are, and I’m guessing it’ll take Arata actually returning to karuta in a big way to make his drama feel that satisfying. At the moment, we’ve currently got one show that’s an urgent and exciting sports drama, where Chihaya and her clubmates all apply their unique talents to satisfying karuta matches. At the same time, we’ve also got a Kimi ni Todoke-style slow-burning shoujo love drama, without the endearing face-to-face scenes or strength of characterization to really make that work. I can’t really invest in a romance between two characters who were friends as kids for a couple on-screen episodes, and since then have exchanged maybe a dozen lines in total with each other. Fortunately, I’m guessing last episode’s subdued nature means the show will start revving up into karuta matches again soon, and with two episodes left in the first season, I have to assume that even the Arata drama will start paying off soon. Either way, I’m loving this show in spite of my complaints, so let’s see what episode twenty four brings!

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Winter 2018 – Week 3 in Review

What the crap how is this season so good. We just got off a season that basically justified anime in 2017 altogether, and now here we are opening with a season that’s pretty much just as strong, if a little more genre-constrained. And it’s not like I care about this season’s genre constraints, given I fall neatly into the audience for all its low-key character drama and slice of life offerings. Perhaps the most astonishing thing is this crop’s base aesthetic quality – Laid-Back Camp is mostly just an above-average production, but Evergarden, After the Rain, Franxx, and Universe are all visually stunning every single week. The season has been good enough that it’s forced me to realize half a dozen airing shows is basically my limit; I’d love to be keeping up with Mitsuboshi Colors, but there’s just too much else to watch for me to hold onto it at the moment. There’s plenty to celebrate this week, so let’s get right to it and RUN THESE SHOWS DOWN!

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Why It Works: Past Classics from the Voices of Darling in the Franxx

Got another sort of peripheral-to-ongoing-shows article today, considering I already wrote initial pieces on my other two airing Crunchyroll shows, and Franxx hasn’t yet given me enough in-show material to write about. It’s always nice to find a season to rep great old shows, and hitting both Toradora and Idolmaster made me feel pretty good about this one. The nice thing about watching too much anime is you’re always full of recommendations!

Past Classics from the Voices of Darling in the Franxx

March comes in like a lion – Episode 37

Rei had his long-awaited first match with Meijin Souya this week, which turned out to be a bit of a pleasant anticlimax. This episode certainly followed through on Souya’s generally mythic presence, but the actual match was nearly over before it began. Still, both that match and the later material between Rei and Souya were entertaining in their own way, so I can’t really complain.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.

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Scorching Ping Pong Girls – Episode 1

It’s time to embark on a new project! Scorching Ping Pong Girls is a recent enough production that I actually watched its first episode for the preview guide way back when it aired, and while I remember finding that enjoyable enough, I didn’t end up sticking with the show. The biggest takeaway I still remember is that it had an unusually sharp sense of emotional interiority for its slice of life/comedy/sports drama space, and also I think the match scenes were handled pretty well? Anyway. It’s maintained a humble but largely positive reputation since then, and seems to still be remembered pretty fondly within my own incredibly specific subsphere of anime fandom. All the various excerpts I’ve seen seem to imply this is a charming and surprisingly robust production, so I’m very on board to get started. Let’s start off with the first episode of Scorching Ping Pong Girls!

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My Monster Secret, Volume 8 – Review

My Monster Secret leaned heavily on its most minor side characters this volume, with altogether disappointing results. This manga definitely can succeed as a full-on farce, but when it’s not relying on the emotional appeal of its characters, the jokes really need to show up… and this volume’s collection of mediocre sight gags and too-long gimmicks just didn’t cut it. Ah well.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.