It’s a bit late, cause I’ve been tired, but here they are! Some lengthier write-ups for several shows! I should move to writing just these, honestly, for most shows. Welp, just checked, this post is quite long. Yeah, I could definitely move to just these, instead of episodic notes, and this is almost too long as well.
Shows listed in order of enjoyment. Links are to lengthier write-ups.
This show is sort of funny in terms of me discussing it. I have a lot to say during the episode, where I break down shot-composition, imagery, facial expressions, words spoken and unspoken, plot-advancements, every small thing in this show is very much deliberate. People speak of the imagery in Mawaru Penguindrum, or Monogatari. But you know what? That’s only in very certain scenes, and those shows work really hard to hit you on the head. Even if you don’t always get what the imagery is, it’s clear it’s there. Also, there are stylistic choices that aren’t thematic, and don’t really convey much, they’re there as extra baggage riding the train (it’s not bad, it’s just as Studio Ghibli has its style).
Here though, none of that. Every frame is carefully aligned to help convey the messages. I could talk to you about the messages, but the plot isn’t that new, so it’d completely miss the point. What is interesting is not what is conveyed, but how it’s done, a true master’s class. Want to see the how? Then go and read the full-length episodic notes!
If I were to pick out two thematic points, well, one’s meta-thematic, it’d be that “Sports shows” are indeed often similar to samurai shows, and this manga with its haiku-like philosophical musings and imagery of flowers and butterflies truly feels the part. The other is a thread of power, and one’s purpose in life. Smile is beholden, and all he wants to be is free. Smile is free, of desire, but is chained by others’ desires for him.
Watch this show, and then if you’d like to see some gushing by form of breaking everything down, check my episodic notes for this show. I’m likely to keep writing them, and it’s nice when people appreciate them.
2) Isshuukan Friends episode 5 (One Week Friends)
I was a bit worried about this episode. Last episode was amazing, and not only was it amazing, but it ended in a manner fit for a series-end, so here we are, in episode 5, having to deal with new people. Welp!
Well, it actually worked wonderfully, and fit very well. Yes, it may have been a slightly weaker episode, but it was a pretty darn good one anyway. Saki is sort of like Hase, but not really. She is like Hase in that she will push Fujimiya beyond her comfort zone. Hase sees Fujimiya as “something special”, he puts her on the pedestal of the “maybe girlfriend, one day, please Shogo, help me!” and so, he is not online fine with the situation he had attained, but makes it to be special because of the arbitrary rules.
Saki though thinks of Fujimiya as a friend, and so pushes her mercilessly, out of her comfort zone, and into what isgood for her. Fujimiya’s memory-loss is changing, it’s improving. The premise is going away, but it’s fine, because the theme is one of friends, and so, in this show, the theme was only important to get things rolling, and isn’t truly necessary once things began moving in earnest.
3) Mushishi Zoku Shou (Second Season) episode 5
It was a good episode, because it’s Mushishi, but it really wasn’t one of my favourites. One of my least-favourite episodes of Mushishi, and it’s still good enough to blow a lot of the contenders out of the water :P The theme bit here really hit us over the head, but it was also thematically “closed” which was nice – girl loses love, so loses energy. Girl can get back energy, but that’d require admitting her love is gone and she has to move on.
At the final moment, she clings to life, and also throws away her past – and yes, someone walking behind you until it can assume your place? A strong metaphor both for depression, or your post, who can rise and make the current you disappear after they sap you of all strength, even as you cling to them. This episode just felt a bit more sterile, or perhaps too thematically self-contained, to me.
4) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders episode 5
JoJo finally truly feelsl ike JoJo. Enemies and allies who respect one another, explaining our moves, not just to the audience and the allies, but the enemy. Superridiculous poses to beg disbelief. Also, we seem to have added the final member to our reverse-harem, at least for now. There was a lot of action here, and it was ridiciulous, but it was JoJo ridiculous. I’m quite curious to see how we go from here. I’m sad I can’t watch this as I did the 2nd part of the first season, 3-4 episodes at a time.
Also, the “I’m looking for the man with two right hands who killed my sister!” – The Princess Bride vibes were killing me :D
I’m a big fan of average shounen shows. I don’t think they’re great, but I come to them knowing what I’ll hopefully get – some good feels, solid looking action, and a plot that hopefully won’t make me tear my eyes out so they will be unable to read more of those lines. Black Bullet for the most part delivers well on all of these.
The show’s take on “light moments” is very poor, with panty-jokes, into boob-jokes, into two girls duking it out in a boy’s apartment over him, with him and another girl quietly moving the table out of the way. Very poor stuff, but I guess I sort of got used to most anime being like this, sadly.
We’ve had exposition that didn’t feel much like exposition, as characters didn’t only declaim for the sake of information, but had done so through the manner of bringing up their past encounters with one another. Ridiculous political maneuvering that doesn’t truly live up to that name, and some solid action. All in all, quite a bit happened, even if the plot didn’t progress much.
One thing I’m bothered by, even though it fits into the “using humans as tools” theme – which had been reinforced yet again by Seitenshi being willing to use Rentaro so their city-state wouldn’t fall behind, is that all the girls are either very angry, or simply emotionless, having become tools, having been turned into tools by this world. I’d like to see more varied personalities and emotional range from the girl-monsters. They’re a large part of the setting, and if we look at them as emotionless dolls, it leaves the show emptier, and forces it to resort to its stupid gags.
The subtext in this show is borderline. “There is no luck, it all comes down to knowledge. The result of an effort are decided before you even start.” – That’s… not the best mindset, it’s one where if success isn’t assured, tells you to not even bother. And it also says that when you succeed, it isn’t due to outside interference, or help, but it’s all you! Then again, it says that when you fail, it’s all you as well. It’s not true, but at least it urges some self-responsibility.
Moreover, that message is bollocks, but that’s actually fine. It feeds well into why our protagonists our NEETs. In the first episode they said our world is unfair and chaotic, where one cannot know the rules. That subtext? It only applies to games, and the new world they are in. If you believe effort is only worthwhile is assured when you know you will win, and in our world you indeed can’t know you’re going to win, then you stay at home, hidden from the world, just like our two protagonists.
The humor in this episode didn’t always land with me, but it was clear the show isn’t always serious. Stephanie showing she’s got brains was nice, and it was also nice to see how Sora showed her why she and her grandfather failed, rather than merely tried teaching her, though being a smart girl, Stephanie could’ve probably picked up on a lesson as well. But her situation, being left with barely enough to cover herself was a good analogy for the situation of humanity.
Of course, should our protagonists only enter fights they’re assured of winning, it won’t be as exciting, and the excitement would only come from “The Master Plan Unfolding”, where they know what’s going on and we watchers eagerly await to see it unfold. Here though, they’re pushed by the situation to enter into games with incomplete knowledge. Only fools enter games they don’t know they’ll win in advance, and that’s exactly what Blank will do. Blank are idealistic fools, believing in humanity, even with all their sarcastic air.
7) Hitsugi no Chaika episode 5 (Chaika the Coffin Princess)
This episode was all sorts of amusing. We slowly flesh out Gillette and his gang as real people, with their own issues, also trying to find their path in this post-war world. But the real deal this episode had been Chaikas! The fact there are multiple Chaikas had been brought up in the past, so it only made sense for it to finally come to light in the episode. Toru had received the most characterization he had thus far, by showing us another character and showing us how Toru is unlike him…
Lots of funny stuff, and perhaps we’ll glean more of how the world and backstory are progressing. But this is definitely an atmosphere + plot/world show. The characters get to have just enough personality to tie gags on, and very little else. I am actually somewhat disappointed, as “plot” with revelations, chases, and twists isn’t actually a well-constructed show. It’s enjoyable, but there isn’t actually much there, when you get down to it…
8) Sidonia no Kishi episode 4 (Knights of Sidonia)
This show is solid but unexciting to me. It doesn’t really offer anything new. I like the setting, but that’s about it. Yes, a mecha show with a protagonist who will not listen to orders, is a maverick, will end up saving humanity, and there are secrets behind the scenes. Characterization is mostly rudimentary, the action scenes are well-directed, the acting is solid… there’s very little to fault with this show, and the care and attention to details in the setting-spaceship are to be lauded, but there’s nothing to truly excite me about the show. It shows a solid level of craft, but it’s not exceptional.
9) Nisekoi episode 17
Back to our regular RomCom episodes. This episode had all been about the Chitoge-service. Honestly? This whole show is. It’s clear that either the writer, or at the very least the director like Chitoge, giving her not just the most time, but the best treatment in terms of how her scenes and relationship with Raku are carried out. Lots of sweet moments, lots of sweet Chitoge screenshot opportunities. Story? Not really, but this is what a lot of RomComs are about, just empty calories to make us feel good.
Not as strong as some episodes, but an improvement over recent weeks, and what we watch this show for.
10) Akuma no Riddle episode 5
Ok, so instead of “Monster of the Week”, we have “Assassin of the Week”. Yes, we have a bunch of assassin girls, so it makes sense we’ll go over why they want to be assassins. First girl was here in order to get to keep killing. Second girl was here in order to stop killing. Third girl? She actually killed for a reason, and looked for something concrete outside of killing, not entirely focused on herself.
The action isn’t the greatest. Our two main characters are the two least fleshed out, because the show wants to keep its cards close to the chest, and we slowly get hints and flashbacks… but if you make us care the most for characters just before booting them, you should do it on Shigofumi/Voices of a Distant Star level, not this. Empty calories, and the crazy isn’t very high. Mirai Nikki had done all of this much better, but it’s honestly the gold standard for this kind of show right now.
I could easily drop it, and didn’t intend to pick it up originally. We’ll see.
11) Fairy Tail (2014) episode 5
Man, I remember not liking the Garou Knights in the manga as well. Come on, give me the fights in the city! And the enemies being so… ridiculous. Well, it’s a shounen, so that sort of thing is to be expected, at least until they’re given a motivation that puts them close to our protagonists.
But the animation, man. This show feels so half-baked, and so un-pretty. It breaks my heart and makes me wish it was still done in the style, and to the standard, set by the previous series.
Somewhat tempted to say screw it and pick up the manga again, but will give them up to the point I stopped reading, and we’ll see if they manage to pull it off.
I wonder if what I’m doing with this show is unfair. Somewhat to the show, and mostly to myself. This show is clear about what it’s capable of doing, and what it’s not capable of doing, and trying to get it to do other things is a waste of time and effort, and squandering my limited “Hope” chips.
First, here is my favourite version of the song this episode is based on – Kagerou Daze. That song is one of the main reasons I even picked this show up, and sharing it with some others got them to pick it up as well. This tells a complete story. A good one. I even got surprised, not just by how dark it quickly got, but by the twist at the end (which is actually not very surprising when you look at other stories dealing with the same topic). I even found it emotional, and moreso each time I watch it. That song is under 4 minutes.
So, here they have a 20 minute episode, right? Surely they’ll deliver to me a Shigofumi-level vignette, one that’d make me choke up, and fill my eyes with tears, right? Well, no. I was left completely cold by it. Some people said that I completely misinterpreted the show’s goals, and that its goals were to build up the mystery. My response to those people? I’d rather assume the show tried to do something good and failed, than assume it never even bothered about anything worthwhile. The mystery, with the time-travel and time-loops, other-worlds, reincarnation? All of these things certainly existed, in the first 2-3 minutes, and last 3-4 minutes of the show. Everything else was about characters, relationships, and seemingly trying to build an emotional resonance, in a way that backfired magnificently.
This show keeps presenting to us inane and annoying chatter and conversations. Episode 3 is the only one that avoided it by having several characters talking, so they didn’t have time to waste, and their sentences actually had to mean something and convey information and characterization. Here we once more had mostly two characters talking to one another, and mostly just one of them yammering endlessly. Yes, their intention was to show us how this girl won’t admit her feelings to the boy, unless she just wanted to feel fawned over. Yes, the point is to show how much he is blinded by his love for her though it isn’t earned. They could’ve done that with less annoying voice and let the behaviour carry it through – though that’s a tiny note. The main thing is they could’ve done it with considerably less time, and with less head-tilts and time-wasters. Hibiya convincing his father? Yes, all the repeated bits were to drive home how hard he tried to convince his father, but that was 75 seconds, which felt out of a comedy.
They just took all their time, and squandered it. I truly feel it’s a similar case to Shingeki no Kyojin and Nagi no Asukara, where they have to pad the season to fit into the schedule, and the show is less for the extra time it is given, because adding meaningless content actually reduces the overall quality, rather than be neutral.
After the episode tired us, and failed to make us care for the characters, the emotional pay-off just wasn’t there. And if all the episode cared for was to heighten the mystery, then those roughly 15 minutes were completely filler. And the people saying so are telling me I am too harsh on the show – man, they don’t even think the episode tried, and don’t care if it had 15 minutes that didn’t matter, because the theme was there!
Also, the episode’s theme was actually solid, and tied everything together, but it was still something that could be covered in points, and take less than 3 minutes total. The theme is “The Hero’s Journey”, of sorts, not exactly Campbell’s take. More of a knight. Look at the dialogue in the beginning. The heroes rest between lives, after sacrificing themselves for another. The world told Hibiya to go back, that there is nothing for him there, at the terminus of his destiny, except fate. A fate to be reborn, only to die, for another, for all eternities.
Also, the so-called “mystery”? Crypto-bullshit to the max.
13) Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei episode 5 (The Irregular at Magic High School)
The write-up linked this time isn’t episodic notes on the show, but me being sort of a bully, and sort of a surgeon, and dissecting the show’s various strawmen. Yes, they all tie to the “subtext” of “Fake-Meritocracy rules! Equality drools!” which I wrote a lengthy piece about, but these issues bothered me all on their own. Simply because it tries to pass what it does as something other than it is, and because the fallacies and stupidity hurt my brain.
When you want to convince the audience, and considering Mahouka is a bona fide political text it clearly does, you need to show how your opinions defeat the opposing ones. One way to do it, especially if you don’t really know how to write, or how to write smart characters and dialogues, is to make everyone else dumber. To make Lucy Lawless appear taller as Xena they mostly hired short actors or dug grooves into the ground where the taller actors stood. So to make Tatsuya seem smart, his cohort have about 20 IQ less than he does, and his opponents border on being 5 years old mentally. I find that problematic, as the strawmen presented are not just stupid, and insult my intelligence as a reader/watcher, but also reek of demagoguery.
“We want change! And we want you to figure out how to get it done!” – Go to a real life rally, and yes, some of the people there, even quite a few, would be like that. But you’d also find numerous people, especially amongst the leaders, who know exactly what they want done to change a situation. Yes, many of the ideas might end up badly, or miss something, but not to the level of just crying out and ignoring the most obvious and apparent answers. Mibu had spoken with Tatsuya, he asked her “And what do you want after you get equality/how do you want it to get done?” She went home to think about it, then comes back with no ideas. That’s painting them as idealistic fools who just want someone else to solve their problems for them, this is painting everyone who is less gifted by life like that.
And then there’s the “defense” given by LN-readers and the series – they’re only manipulated by terrorists! They truly don’t know better! Yeah, that’s some grade A bullshit subtext for people who wish equality/less difference in pay. And as some people pointed out, these are not the non-magicians, these are merely the “Grade B magicians” who are still going to earn more money than the poor non-magicians. But here they are treated as nothing.
I also didn’t like the whole bit with the president, “They will appeal to emotions, but I’ll clearly win any logical fight” – painting one side as logical and the other as emotional and “hysterical”, classic tactics. That’d be fine, you know? If it weren’t for the fact her speech was demagoguery and an appeal to emotions as well :P
Now, to talk a bit of something else. We’ve barely seen Erika. Leo got about 20 seconds of screen-time. Miyuki actually has two friends, Honoka and Shizuku, the two girls who made amends with Tatsuya at the beginning of the 2nd episode after the Bloom-Weed altercation, and doesn’t consider herself friends with his friends. Where are they? How will it work for the 2nd arc, when they’re supposed to all be friends already, even if they don’t really get fleshed out?
I don’t really envy the animation studio here, the first arc is just terribly written, plot-structure, characterization, a lot of info-dumps.. how are they to get it all out? I’d have honestly cut down on some of the “important” plot-bits, and showing us how cool Tatsuya is, to give more time for other characters. Dunno. I hope it somehow works once we hit the 2nd arc.
I already know the story, I’m here for the action, but it’s so hard to stick with this show.
I also spoke of it earlier, but it feels like I’m doing what this show is doing, minus the strawmanning – it feels like I’m picking on the infirm and helpless – not because the author isn’t there to respond, but because of how easy it is to smack this show around. It’s not that I’m feeling merciful, or cruel, or that it’s no longer “fun”, but how much can you talk about the ways in which this show’s societal messages, and writing are crap? You want to watch a show with good dialogues? Watch Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere.
Summary: Another good week! The top 3 had been great, though aside from Ping Pong, ever slightly weaker than previous weeks. 4-6 had been fun, 7-9 slightly above average, and what’s left had been humdrum. I think Akuma no Riddle might go on the “Watch when I have free time” pile, and I should really drop Mekakucity Actors. I’m no longer even disappointed by that one, just zero expectations.
Question: So how did the past week fare out for you? Anything you agree or disagree with in the above write-up?