Today on Crunchyroll, I dug into how well Juni Taisen has balanced the assumptions of its premise and the general demands of dramatic characterization. The show isn’t wasting time killing off its contenders, but those contenders are being used well – their deaths are all meaningful in their own way, and the fact that I actually felt very sad for Chicken and Boar is a testament to the show’s overall writing. You can check out my full piece over at Crunchyroll!
Isao Takahata boasts a catalog so laudable that it seems strange to see him as any kind of “unsung” director, but given he spent so much of his career working alongside Hayao Miyazaki, it makes sense that he’d end up coming off as the quiet genius of Studio Ghibli. In contrast with Miyazaki’s universally appealing and often family-friendly films, Takahata directs stranger, more idiosyncratic productions, from the devastating Grave of the Fireflies to the nostalgic Only Yesterday, and even a passion project about a series of rural canals. So it remains with his final film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which was released close enough to Miyazaki’s own The Wind Rises to again be dwarfed in public consciousness. And yet, like so much of his work, Kaguya possesses an incredibly distinct beauty, and in its own way speaks to the rustic, nostalgic sensibilities that seem to unite Takahata and Miyazaki.
Just Because! offered another excellent episode this week, demonstrating the fact that even if it can’t keep up its absurd character acting for an entire season, its observations about adolescence are still piercing enough to carry the day. This episode’s post-date cooldown focus lent itself perfectly to Just Because!’s atypical dramatic priorities, resulting in a wide array of charmingly awkward moments. This show is the good stuff.
You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below.
After episode twenty-one’s continuous suffering, twenty-two opens with a welcome fragment of levity. Having finally received Himari’s scarfs, Double H decide to come visit her, resulting in some solid comedy and a charming scene between them and Ringo. Himari isn’t home, of course, but Ringo is happy to accept their gift. In the midst of Penguindrum’s heaviest material yet, it’s nice to be reminded that some people in this world can be happy, and that people can still care about each other.
Today on ANN, I returned to A Bride’s Story for its ninth and most Pariyatastic volume yet. Pariya is an insanely good character, and this volume was happy to just let her combination of bluntness, anxiety, and general charm carry the show. Her relationship with Umar is progressing in an endearing and believable way, and getting stuck in her headspace offered a much more immediately relatable series of challenges than Bride’s Story’s sometimes fanciful narratives. After many volumes of reserved historical drama, A Bride’s Story has finally embraced its meme-ready 4koma heart.
You can check out my full review over at ANN.
The anime is just gonna keep being good, I guess! Fall 2017 continues to be one hell of a season, offering a wide variety of strong shows that so far haven’t really faltered at all. If anything, the fact that this season, and particularly its surprise hits, have been so consistently strong is prompting me to be a little harsher to shows I’d otherwise be happily accommodating. In this case, it means that I’m probably parting ways with The Ancient Magus’ Bride. The manga’s adaptation is perfectly “okay,” but “okay” is just not enough this season – I’m not getting anything out of the anime that I didn’t get out of the more tightly composed manga, and meanwhile, we’ve got stuff like MMO Junkie and Juni Taisen totally blowing me away every single week. I’m sorry Chise, but your adventures turned out to be late by exactly one season. Let’s set that sad parting aside and run the rest of this week down!
After three straight episodes of wild adventures in Pure Illusion, Flip Flappers’ fourth episode sticks entirely to the real world. As our mad scientist friend details in the first scene, Cocona and Papika’s “impedance is all over the place.” Without a clear emotional bond and mutual understanding, it’s impossible to control their own journeys into Flip Flappers – to be in control in these emotional landscapes, you must first understand and synchronize your own feelings. And so the two of them are tasked with living together for a few days, in hopes of “understanding and accepting one another.” It’s essentially the Evangelion DDR episode, a chance for our two leads to actually bond.
March finally pulled itself together this week, offering an episode that was strong in both comedy (!!!) and drama. The difficult path up out of depression was nicely illustrated through the contrasting halves of this episode, where Rei’s lighthearted shenanigans with the other shogi club members were brought to a shuddering halt by his memories of childhood bullying. Between that and seeing the sisters again, this episode seemed determined to remind me of all the things this show is actually good at. It was a very welcome reminder!
You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.
This weekend on Crunchyroll, I highlighted some of the major strengths of this season’s unexpectedly excellent Recovery of an MMO Junkie. It’s always nice when a show that wasn’t on my radar at all turns out to be great, and between MMO Junkie and Just Because!, this has been a good season for confirming that anime can definitely still surprise me. MMO Junkie might actually be the show I most anticipate each week, particularly after last episode’s agonizing cliffhanger. I must see these two get together damnit!
Let’s get right back to Chihayafuru! Last episode put us halfway through the first duel between Chihaya and young Queen Shinobu, which already feels like the most dynamic and dramatically effective karuta match of the show to date. Chihaya has been against the ropes for basically the entire match, but the show still managed to make her slow defeat feel fresh and tense all the way through. After a long period of simply being overwhelmed by Shinobu’s ridiculous arm speed, Chihaya has at last managed to snag a couple cards, including one of her best single syllable cards and her signature Chihaya card. There’s pretty much no way she’ll actually win this battle (even if her opponent hadn’t been clearly framed as a far better player, there’s just no way Chihaya can beat the Queen at episode fifteen and still sustain a show afterwards), but if her slow losing stays this exciting, I’ll have no complaints. Let’s get right to it!