And so the summer ends. I really couldn’t be more burnt out on talking about anime, considering I just finished three 8+ page essays on TWGOK, Uchouten Kazoku, and Gatchaman Crowds, but I’ll at least wave my hand in the direction of final impressions.
The time is upon us, my friends (no, I’m not going to do an entire writeup in a McCain cadence, and who would even find that funny?). It’s been a long, mediocre, and inconsistently entertaining ride, but all moderately watchable things must come to an end. There were ups and downs, trials and gags, but through it all, Free held close to its strongest conviction – upper bodies are worth celebrating. Apparently this powerful message struck a chord with the people, for lo, Free has sold many thousands of BDs, and proven once again that KyoAni does indeed find a way. Though tonight we will be parting, this is not a time for sadness – for all those who held to the call of upper bodies this summer, let these sales numbers be consolation that some day soon, KyoAni will once again return to this fairly stupid show. It’s been a long paddle, Free. Let’s close out with the modest sum of dignity you’ve always managed to assemble.
No Monogatari this week, so I only had two thirds of the great shows I normally do. That turned out to be fine, though, because the second-strings were in extremely good form.
Another fantastic week in anime, but when the current season has a bewildering buffet on the scale of three good shows, that tends to happen. All three of my favorites were in top form this week, so let’s run down the list.
Ooooh god. Food coma. Hurts. Too much kebab, too many greasy fries. And here I am, about to watch lithe young swimmers show off their somewhat terrifyingly toned bodies, while I sit here drinking a beer and just get fat.
No, fuck that. I have a great self-image! Just had my annual physical, exactly the same weight as last year, exercise regularly and don’t overeat and everything. In fact, I’d say that pretty much my only vice is my borderline alcoholism. I know. I’m impressed too.
So fuck you, swimbros. I don’t gotta prove nothin’ to you. I’m gonna sit here and drink (one for glasses-push or smarmy Makoto stare, two for HaruxWater moments, three for emo Rin) and feel perfectly good about myself. In fact, everybody feel good about yourselves! Only good times now! We are watching the fruit of an entire company’s worth of people working diligently for months, all in pursuit of animating some teenage boys prancing around half-naked for twenty minutes a week. Fuck feeling bad about my decisions. I don’t feel ashamed for shit.
Wait, I’m actually watching those teenage boys, just so I can make silly jokes about them for strangers on the internet.
Oh god what am I doing with my life.
Fuck it cue the episode.
Fell behind on some shows this week, and haven’t had the time to catch up. I’ll update this with C3-bu and Monogatari whenever I get around to them. And hell, maybe I’ll even catch up on the handful of Titan episodes I’ve been too apathetic to watch.
Uchouten Kazoku 9: Best show yada yada beautiful art yada yada resonant themes yada yada incredibly naturalistic storytelling etc. As always, the grace of this show’s composition and dialogue fall well beyond my ability to articulate, so I guess I’ll just say that this week’s episode finally brought the scale of the show’s final conflicts into focus. The election of the Nise-emon and the Friday Fellows’ New Year’s bash are clearly going to be tied together in this final arc, most likely through whatever secret plan the Ebisugawas are plotting. Once again, Yasaburou proved himself the begrudging but undeniably best-qualified leader of the family, his easy nature making him the perfect diplomat when it came to the Fellows, the professor, and even Kaisei. I’m eager to see how Benten will figure into this conflict, but at this point I mainly just want this show to be finished so I can buy it and force everyone else I know to watch it. Why do I watch anime? Because every year we get a handful of shows worth talking about and maybe one or two of these.
Gatchaman Crowds 8: Quite an episode this week. After the tumultuous showdown of last week, they follow it up by… visiting a preschool. That kind of works, in a thematic way. Which is how most of the stuff in this show works – it often feels like Hajime is having a direct conversation with the audience more than she is with any of the characters around her. Her actions make much more sense given our fuller context, her smaller choices are often reflective of the show’s overarching ideas, and she’s so flawless outside of her communication difficulties that her alignment with the show’s philosophy often verges on (and you could easily argue fully veers into) didactic storytelling.
But anyway, theme stuff. Visiting the preschool and appearing in human form is pretty much perfectly Hajime – she values communication between equals above all else, and uses this opportunity to redefine the Gatchamen as just another group of people trying to help out, like firemen or policemen. She also uses the media presence to take the power of crowdsourcing out of Galax’s hands and publicly announce what’s going on and how people can help out (credit to tundranocaps for pointing this one out). And then Sugane and OD have their whole on-the-nose conversation about the egoless play of children being like the joyful horizontal society Rui’s so goddamn excited about. So we push the story forward while also talking about all the show’s favorite ideas. Good stuff!
Incidentally, people are getting all excited about the first few hours of Gatchaman’s appearance on Amazon or whatnot, but it seems a little premature to be celebrating that. Honestly, I’d be pretty surprised if a show this completely dedicated to such esoteric ideas finds wide success, particularly since its visual aesthetic is so unabashedly anime, which I’m guessing is pretty off-putting to most people interested in discussing crowdsourcing, gamification, and the false prophet of leadership. But then again, Utsutsu of all characters recently came in the top four of a Japanese summer “best female character” poll, so perhaps once again the right show will get big sales for all the wrong reasons.
TWGOK S3 9: TWGOK is not really my kind of show, but at this point I’m extremely happy I’ve watched the rest of it, because the improvements in this season are just insane. Keima’s always been an entertaining protagonist, but this season has forced him to actually take his Lelouch-powers seriously, and this was the episode where it all came to a head. His denial of Chihiro was some legitimately devastating stuff – normally I get uncomfortable whenever anything haremy attempts to take its characters emotions’ seriously (because if if I’m taking them seriously, I also have to take seriously the fact that harems are fundamentally fucked-up, dehumanizing power fantasies with all kinds of demented ideas about relationships and power dynamics), but this episode actually let the hammer fall in a way no other harem would. No funny gags here – Keima’s actions, while ultimately intended to help people, have completely toyed with people’s emotions, and when you do things like this you suffer the consequences. This has been coming for a long time, but I was honestly shocked by how effective it was, and the strength of this moment by itself raised my estimation of the show overall. Congrats, Season 3.
Yep, still watching Free. This week’s episode was actually one of the best (which admittedly isn’t saying much), with a bunch of great gags and some quite effective dramatic moments. My enthusiasm for this pretty lousy show kind of dwindles the more information we get on the fall show seemingly determined to prove what KyoAni are actually capable of, so for the sake of leaving my children a full set of derpy comedy writeups, I’m hoping it keeps up the pace.
Alright you fucks it’s time for Free. It’s been a love-hate-tolerate-resent relationship for me and this show – the novelty lasted about 2.5 episodes, so when it’s not being funny it’s either K-On with abs or Girls und Panzer minus the girls, the panzer, and the actually kinda good writing. Even the animation and direction can be somewhat inconsistent – Yamada’s episode was great, but outside of that it doesn’t really feel like KyoAni have been applying their A-game to this one. Which is honestly fine by me, because if their A-game isn’t here, it’s probably busy over here, which is an arrangement I am perfectly comfortable with.
But anyway. Free. Yeah, this is a kinda crappy show, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. And yes, it lacks Crime Edge’s gift for the whimsically absurd that made even mocking that show a kind of friendly gesture. But hey, at least it’s got… well, upper bodies. It’s got plenty of upper bodies. And I guess that’s something we can all be thankful for.
0:32 – But I do love the girls being silly
0:55 – One more time!
1:28 – Well this episode isn’t wasting any time
3:06 – I am extremely uncomfortable with this episode title
3:58 – And occasionally this show is really great. This song is fantastic for the job here – upbeat and mid-tempo and nostalgic. The heavy filter obviously implies the meaning for Haru. Looking out the window to reflect on memories is a cliche, but it’s a fine one if used effectively. And this pushes Haru into a new plot arc, where he actually enjoys the full experience of swimming with his friends (I’m guessing), without having to over-explain anything. Nice sequence
4:24 – Well I guess remembering he has teammates is still a work in progress
4:45 – Fuckin’ Gou doesn’t even realize this is 1-cour
4:59 – Oh my god every
5:00 – frame
5:01 – is a gem . Gah, works better in motion. Rei you are ridiculous
5:32 – Oh, don’t mind me
But what did it matter if they knew, anymore? The tournament had been a failure, an unmitigated disaster. Rin-chan had… changed.
No, that’s a damned excuse of a lie.
Rin hadn’t changed – Rin had standards. And I had failed them. I had failed him. The truth hung heavy in my throat, not even the rich chlorine musk clouding my nausea. My presumption. Like I had earned him. Like he was something to be won. What did it matter if they knew? I deserved to fail.
6:11 – Gou asked the obvious question, but then, suddenly, Makoto covered for me. He knew – of course he knew, how could I have hid my obsession, my love, from eyes as sharp and good-naturedly half-open as his? But what did he have to gain from protecting my secrets?
6:22 – What did he want from me? I gazed intently at the water, as if one more entreaty would reveal its wisdom. But in truth, the water in my eyes held no chlorine. Why wouldn’t he just let me be shamed?
6:29 – Stupid stupid gah why are you such an insensitive PRICK? Why would I push him away?!?
6:33 – Oh god it’s him. Of course the coach would bunk me with the most emotionally fragile child in the school. Guh, fine, time to act aloof and senpai-ish
6:42 – Look, I get it, you’re pissy because you lack any and all talent. Kind of having a moment here, guy
6:47 – Great. What a relief
6:57 – The kid may have the grace of a manatee , but he’s not stupid
7:14 – Move on? But… but…
7:28 – Really? We’re actually getting a festival episode? KyoAni you’ve outdone yourselves
7:46 – That was the moment I resolved to never, ever have children
8:06 – I was seriously about to make this joke . Can’t even believe this show sometimes
8:13 – And Nagisa even catches it. Brilliant work, Free
8:42 – All flavors are but ash to Rin now. Even candy apples
9:05 – Rei’s acting clingy again. Lucky for him I’ve tired of hating him
9:49 – I just now realized Nagisa and Rei are wearing yukata, but Haru and Makoto aren’t . Yeah, I’m sure that was an accident
I really hope someone writes the article discussing gender roles in shows like this or UtaPri or whatever versus classic moe shows. Personally I generally only find these shows interesting on a cultural/psychological level, so if someone else wants to do the work…
11:23 – Oh no our brilliant plan
12:02 – Wow they just ripped this wholesale from a crappy romcom . This may be the best/worst episode yet
12:42 – This is amazing . I guess I’m a sucker for stupid, self-aware genre tricks
13:00 – YEEEEESssssss
13:06 – Ermahgerd he even did the sasasasasa
13:33 – Jeez, this episode’s doing ALL the romcom cliches
13:44 – Yeah no question this is the best episode yet . As I said initially, this show can really stick a comedic landing when it wants to
14:26 – Again, brilliant . Rei is kind of becoming a breakout character at the moment
16:21 – Good scene. Using the chain as a kind of visual/aural percussion works to both highlight the contrast between the two scenes and is obviously a pretty on-the-nose but effective visual marker of Rin’s attempts to reclaim what cannot be reclaimed. Someone should get a bonus for this one
17:51 – Finally, the men get a moment alone
18:49 – Very lovely. Also once again a great song choice for this moment. This episode has been less impressive on a direction level than Yamada’s one, but likely more effective on a composition/storytelling level. I like how focused the story really is on Haru, Makoto, and Rin – Nagisa and Rei are essentially both comic relief, so whenever a big emotional moment strikes, they pare it down to the critical group. This has been quite a good episode
20:08 – This moment is pretty damn cute. Maybe it’s just the beer, but I think they’re nailing this one
20:55 – Aw man, they even underscore the character turn by bringing back the goldfish? Jeez, Free, ya shouldn’t have
21:34 – Oh jeez, who could have predicted this WaCkY PlOt TwIsT??? Not that I’m complaining, I mean, what else was the show gonna do?
Damn! Satisfying episode! One of the very funniest and also one of the most polished on an actual dramatic level. Really didn’t see that coming! I’m certainly happy to see what comes next, though, and how they’re gonna characterize Haru beyond “dude loves swimming” now that he’s experienced his big turn and everything. Exciting times!
Because both story structure and the 1-cour system are kinda inflexible, this week pulled the interesting trick of having almost every single show I’m watching put their protagonist through the emotional wringer, questioning their very base motivation and bringing them as close to “defeat” (relative to each story’s stakes) as possible. Fun times!
Uchouten Kazoku 8: Jeez, you thought last week’s episode was heavy? This week dove directly into the grieving process, exploring the brothers’ father more fully than ever before through a series of quirky and moving flashbacks. Yajirou’s relevant backstory was fully laid out, culminating in the beautiful image of a rail car terrorizing downtown Kyoto and fading with the haunting shot of the family standing on the roadside, waiting for their father to come home. Even Yasaburou was forced to reflect on his relationship with his father, and possibly acknowledge that he must take up the mantle of responsibility simply because no one else can. Still on track to be the fourth anime in my list of basically perfect shows.
Gatchaman Crowds 7: Another doozy. Hajime pointing out Rui’s hypocrisy pushes him to Do The Right Thing and directly confront Katze. And so his Hundred are murdered, he’s nearly killed himself, and the Gatchamen’s chain of command is shattered. Only Hajime is able to save them, and even then only because her intelligence and philosophy amuse Katze. But even she is shaken by the appearance of a character who seems to put the lie to her fundamental faith in our common goals and desire for connection and understanding. Rui chose to forego his own ideals in order to hopefully create a future worthy of them. Will Hajime be forced to do the same?
Monogatari S2 7: Man, I act all cool and brooding about this season’s two Anime Worth Discussing, and then we get to Monogatari which was all derping around with loli Hanekawa and making terrible decisions about time travel. So far, this new arc has been much more comedy-focused than the first, which is fine as long as the comedy is good, and Araragi/Shinobu still have a fantastic dynamic. This episode was entertaining for what it was, but I’ll be happy to get into the meat of this time travel nonsense next week, and discover exactly how badly these idiots have fucked everything up.
C3-bu 8: Back to frowntown for this one, as Yura’s incredible insecurity has led her to first prove her worth to the team at any cost, and now seek victory in the same way. Cheating? Why, I never. I find pretty much everything about this show outside of Yura’s character development pretty flat (routine plotting, workmanly direction and dialogue), so it’s fortunate that they’re doing such solid work with her arc.
Free 8: And wrapping up my “everything sucks for everyone” roundup, this week featured Haru feeling really sad about not winning at swimming. Aaand not much else – the very distinctive direction from last week has been tuned down again, so once again it’s mainly watchable because I make silly jokes the whole time. I sure am excited for KyoAni’s next show…
TWGOK S3 8: I think this show’s turn will come next week, when Keima’s overt two-timing blows up in his face, but this show has always been more episodic anyway. Regardless, this particular week was mainly a rearrange-the-board style episode, setting up pieces to be knocked down in the next couple episodes. That’s fine, that’s sometimes necessary, but it’s not the kind of episode that shines in a weekly context.
So yeah, kind of a downer week overall, but the shows I’m invested in are still doing their thing with aplomb. As long as 2-3 shows continue to impress me, I’m happy.
Well here we are again. Last week’s episode kind of blew my mind – first, by being actually kind of really good (excellent, atmospheric direction, a bunch of beautiful shots and some actually effective drama), and second, by almost certainly being good specifically because they brought on the director of K-On and Tamako Market. Holy shit you guys. Up is down, left is right, moe isn’t garbage. Well, I mean, I guess being well-directed can only do so much – I gave each of those shows the fair three-episode shake, and as far as I’m concerned a gifted director tied to that genre will generally create a masterfully directed, evocatively lit version of watching paint dry. You can’t squeeze blood from a blob. A blob that is made of stone, that is. And by blood I mean thematic richness, or… look, it isn’t a perfect metaphor.
Alright. Enough regret – why fret over past misjudgments when I’ve still got so much time to make new ones? Let’s Free!
1:55 – Hey guys, how can we drain this episode of any dramatic tension? Oh I don’t know, maybe by naming itRevenge in the Medley . Not that the entire world hadn’t already guessed that plot development, but seriously, people
2:25 – The Frees are uniformly disgusted by the thought of heterosexual tension
2:52 – Haru seeks solace in the arms of his lover . It wasn’t supposed to be like this!
3:06 – Haru’s plan relies heavily on nebulous metaphors .
Holy shit, I’m actually kind of blind to the fanservice in this show now. I look at an image like that and only think of its wibbly-wobbly thematic implications
3:48 – Speaking of non-romantic tension . Man, anyone not on the male-bonding train has it pretty rough in this world
4:29 – In case you find this outlining of the show’s last act tedious, here are some free chests
4:48 – “Who forgot to take out the trash? Shit, did I say that out loud? We cool, guys?”
5:17 – Between this and C3-bu, I’m beginning to wonder if sports shows have any other conflicts
5:54 – “Am I just a substitute Rei?!” “Of course not, Rin. You also have glasses!”
6:20 – KyoAni sure loves its fans
6:25 – And a liiittle more
“This time, it’ll be manservice. And there’ll be a beach episode – no! TWO beach episodes. NO- A BEACH SEASON.”
7:07 – KyoAni you think you’re so cool . you are so cool kyoani let me hang out with you
7:41 – Seriously Rei you fuck this up we’re bringing in the next sub
7:46 – Haru suddenly realizes he is not his own entire team
8:33 – This episode’s quite the bounty, eh?
9:33 – That’s encouraging, because frankly you look like shit. Now let go of those glasses and win the heat, you damn freeloader
10:29 – It’s okay, you tried your best. Now give me your goggles, your jacket, and your towel. You’re walking home
10:33 – Yeah, you beat your last time of ‘holy fuck are you unconscious’
10:37 – And on the bright side, the goggle thing drew attention from your shit swimming
10:56 – Aaand he forgot them again
11:28 – A nice little shot . This episode’s less impressive than last week, but that’s okay because I’m feeling funnier than last week. Win some lose some
12:17 – Gou’s meddling strikes again
12:20 – Pardon me for gendering a little, but didn’t this trip anyone else a little? I feel like “woops, I signed all you girls up for something super-embarrassing or unexpected” “EHHHHH???” is so established that it’s immediately noticeable seeing the thing reversed. It normally works as a “let’s embarrass these characters because fuck you moe rules” kinda thing – it’s like a variant of the tsundere power-dynamic appeal (where you’re seeing a character reveal their secret side/vulnerability, thus hnnngghh)
12:45 – WHO GAVE YOU PERMISSION TO SPEAK alright I’ll stop
12:59 – Tasty. Man, I could cover my walls with this season’s bounty
Incidentally, if you want my Tasogare Otome x Amnesia review, it’s a mediocre romcom with a flacid male lead and hearteningly pro-sex female lead lightly speckled with a few images as gorgeous as that one
14:27 – Rei I am going to shove my fist so far up your ass it will break your nose
14:58 – I’m sure this is how Haru imagines they spend all their time when he and Makoto aren’t babying their asses
15:46 – I like this gag. I also like that Makoto let them do their whole three stooges routine before mentioning it
17:14 – And the message ends. Don’t you see now, Haru? It’s about togetherness
That was pretty adorable, though
17:49 Heeeeey I remember this shot! Except now it’s all bright and… oooh. You’re a sneaky one, KyoAni!
20:12 – Rin is positively swimming in emotions right now .
20:52 – THANK you
Well, that certainly was an episode of Free. Less visually inspired than the last, but certainly more satisfying than the slice of life set. Races have been lost, teams have pulled together, and Haru has resolved to… figure his shit out later, I guess. That’s cool! Right there with you, buddy. Swimming is complicated (no it isn’t).