Another week. This time I also give my interim scores for the series I’m watching, as we’ve reached a quarter of the season through.
Weekly impressions for Akame ga Kill!, Aldnoah.Zero, Barakamon, Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Illya, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Sailor Moon Crystal, Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen (Silver Will Argevollen), Sword Art Online II, Tokyo ESP, Tokyo Ghoul, and Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance).
The list is organized by how much I’ve enjoyed each episode, and the link in the title is to a more thorough write-up on the episode. For first impressions it means mostly more about production and presentation, but also about themes.
1) Barakamon Episode 3:
When this is literally the first thing you open an episode with, how can you follow it up? Well, judging by the episode’s screenshot album, you can, with much panache.
This episode was mostly a series of skits, tied together and showcasing the group of weirdos that makes up this series. Thankfully, I found it pretty amusing, and even when I didn’t laugh due to it being funny per se, I smiled due to it being charming and warm.
The show focuses on the relationship between people, and obviously gave Handa another life-lesson in the end. It’s just that sort of show, where you either laugh or chuckle at the humor, and then either smile or groan at the morals being told. Though they’re not trying to be subtle with them and the “Folksy Wisdom”, it never feels overbearing.
Current Rating: A. A perfect way to end Saturday’s night anime.
The thriller continues! I think that’s a very apt description, because they’re ticking boxes off of the “How to do a thriller 101” manual – set up our protagonists as “super intelligent”, up the ante on the part of the police, giving a riddle and then revealing there’s a riddle within the riddle which only one person was smart enough to realize, and then having said person as “The Opposition”, which any real riddler needs to show us their worth.
This episode did raise the question of Oedipus Rex, and how it is tied to themes. I think the themes are those of “one’s past comes back to bite them” as well as “trying to control the children, until they rise up” – Facility children that you try to control and experiment on lest they become a danger, and that makes them a danger.
Some of the moments with the riddle broke credulity, and weren’t really needed. But the way the show handles itself is almost a mirror of the characters – so sure of themselves and their plan that you can’t help but follow along, though it does feel somewhat like a game. A very promising start.
Current Rating: A. Most of what we’ve seen thus far is the direction things are going, and the direction of the show, a quality that can’t be faked.
This episode was fun. We did spend a bit too much time on the plan, with the kids acting as if it’s all one big game, but that tied nicely into the first episode’s message, on how humanity is playing around and filled the kids’ heads with the illusion of winning. Also tying into the first episode is the reversal of the Lieutenant’s position – from one without hope he had to not only hope, but convince others to hope, to rescue his charges.
But with us only 3 episodes in, will these issues continue to be the main themes, or will we get new themes? Or will we just have an action story, one with a message of hope and understanding, and how different people can still relate? With a writer-change, I don’t really know. I do know this show has really good production values, and at this point all three of our main-characters took action and showed their agency. Now it remains to be seen how they’ll change the world.
Current Rating: A- or B+. The direction it will take still remains to be seen.
4) Sword Art Online II episode 3:
I didn’t write a long write-up for this episode. It’s not because I didn’t have what to say, but because I had a lot to say, and most of it was influenced by knowing the story. The foreshadowing, and the setting up of the story here are good. I like Sinon, and I liked the dramatical nature of her backstory.
Was a bit of it oversold? Perhaps, but as I said in my write-up for the first season, it’s the same story as that season’s episode 3 all over again – it’s a bit over the top, in order to make you care for the characters, so you’d be invested in what happens to them later. Seeing it after you already care for the characters enhances it even more.
I thought to myself, “Would people who dislike this, come back later and then enjoy this episode upon rewatching it, and the first episode with all of its foreshadowing?” – The answer is “Of course not.” People who like it will come back to it and their enjoyment will be enhanced, and those who dislike it will have their lack of enjoyment enhanced. The way we choose to look at the work will affect what we get out of it. Come with negativity, and it’ll increase. Likewise for a positive mindset.
Me? I like how we’re getting an actual character, and spend time on constructing her so we could understand what she goes through in the future.
Current Score: I’ll skip it for this show, since I know where it’s going, and I think the adaptation is doing a good job thus far, but I can’t truly separate the series from the LNs.
5) Tokyo Ghoul episode 3:
It’s a crazy world we live in. With “Detectives” who torture and mutilate the non-humans, non-humans who try their hardest to pass as humans, even going to school and eating food which makes them sick, and “Jasons”, flamboyant and greater than life monstrosities who revel in their lack of humanity as they go around.
And amidst it all we have our poor half-human, half-ghoul, a one of his kind, an unwitting bridge between worlds, and someone who’s completely clueless about the new world he’s part of. It’s an effective way of teaching us of the world, rather than throwing us into the shoes of someone who already understands it all, where exposition feels more unnatural.
And how does poor Kaneki Ken make himself comfortable? He treats the ghouls who wish to be human as if they were, and replicates his human existence. But such a fragile mindset will surely not be able to last long, and Ken will be forced to keep facing the fact that he is no longer human.
Current Score: B+. A solid horror-action mix, thus far.
6) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders episode 16:
I really liked this episode, where Jotaro is constantly mocked and has to demean himself to save his grandfather, and we can see how he constantly almost snaps, and smacks his assailant, which would also kill Joseph.
Why do I like it so much? Because the over-the-top domineering villain is so JoJo, and we’re finally getting to see some of Jotaro’s personality. Jonathan was selfless. Joseph was playful. Jotaro has rage and a sense of indignation within him.
7) Akame ga Kill! episode 3:
We’ve began with a fight that shows “No mercy”, and moved onto an episode that’s mostly manga gags, and getting to know that underneath their silly exterior, our new comrades have a sordid history, and a thirst for power. Noble motives, but in the end, they want power, and might just end up as the ones they are trying to replace – “I will make sure no one steps down on me ever again.” – The distance between that and actually abusing your power once you obtain it isn’t that great.
It feels like the early paces of a shounen manga, with the humor being cranked up. It’s light entertainment. The villains are as ridiculous as they get though.
Current Grade: B. It’s popcorn entertainment. Don’t expect more.
8) Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun / The Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun episodes 1-3:
I’ve had a headache and some free-time, so rather than watch my heady backlog shows, I decided to go for something light. I am also moving some shows off to the “on-hold” or “dropped” list, so figured I might see if there’s something solid to replace it with, and checked Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun.
I’m sorry Nozaki-kun, you’re not as funny as you think you are. It’s a weird mixture of physical gags, and a slower build-up, which reminds me of older comedy skits, where something is repeated enough times so it’ll be funnier or more ridiculous each time, but in the end it’s just a simple gag, “Look at them ride on a two-seater bicycle, isn’t ithilarious?!” – No, it’s not.
It’s well-acted, and Sakura Chiyo’s design (the female main character) is pleasant to look at, but these are not terribly funny physical gags and slapstick humor that I didn’t find funny the first half-dozen times I’ve come across them. The real problem aside from not finding it terribly funny is that I don’t actually care for the characters and story, and I don’t care for skits-comedy filled with slapstick and physical gag humor that much. I think since it’s a “parody of shoujo romances”, having an actual romance sub-plot would’ve done much to keep me interested.
Current Score: C+. It does what it says on the cover. If you look for another show of the sort you’ve watched many times before and know you like it, go for it. Otherwise, you won’t find anything new here.
9) Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei! episode 3:
The silliness continues! Ilya versus her clone, fighting over the affectations of her “onii-san”! Man. The fan-service here. More kisses, moe-faces, self-inflicted harm… also, for Fate/Stay Night fans, there’s the wink in how “Archer” is trying to get it on with Emiya Shirou. “Incest”? Ho ho ho…
It was kooky, and it was silly, and it wasn’t much more. It’s enjoyable, but it’s a fan-service moe slice of life semi-comedy, right now. We did get a reminder that Miyu’s backstory is a painful one.
Current Score: B-. It’s enjoyable, but right now it’s empty calories. Can’t wait for some of Miyu’s backstory and more action to appear.
10) Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen / Silver Will Argevollen episode 3:
This was another solid episode, where nearly nothing happened. Showing us the “opponent” who enjoys “interesting fights”, once more our main character risks himself and his super-mecha to help others, and his supposedly cold and calculating commanding officer steps in at the last moment to save him.
There’ll be a small time-skip next episode, but it seems up to episode 6 is going to be mostly exposition. This show is giving us a nice version of a story we’ve seen before. I think I might marathon it as it ends, or watch an episode here and there, but watching it weekly? I don’t feel any real impetus to do so.
Current Rating: C. A solid but uninspired take on a story we’ve seen before. Probably better to marathon after it ends.
Monster of the week, and friend-gathering of the week continues. There’s really not much to say. Low production values plague this series as well. The whole way “new enemies, new allies” is handled reminds me of Power Rangers quite a bit. It’s a children’s show, through and through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but right now, that’s all it is. It’s also a bit hard to take “brainwashing programs”, even in a world with magic.
We probably have at least 4-5 more episodes until we have everyone together and can “progress”, right now though we get a healthy dose of “The power of friendship!” and “it takes all kinds, you know?” – I’m far from impressed. I might keep watching weekly, or I might wait for there to be a few more episodes to watch in one go, which would take a while, considering a new episode airs once every two weeks.
Current Rating: C or C-. It might go places, but that’s where it is right now.
12) Tokyo ESP episode 2:
I find this show fascinating. This isn’t a live-action film where you can tell someone’s pulling their punches, so how could it be that a show with a flying drop-kick, speed-lines, and a full-on move title-drop feels so weightless, so unimportant? And yet, that’s exactly where we’re at.
The characters don’t grab me, the sound-direction feels lacking. Yes, Rinka is telling us how she didn’t believe in miracles, and following the flying penguin indeed showed her pragmatic sense, but the show itself is bad at selling us anything as magical, extraordinary, or even just plain old interesting. I can see there are things going on in the plot, but the show itself doesn’t make me want to care.
The only reason I might watch another episode is because it comes out on Friday. But I am just so not looking forward to more of it. Bad or mediocre direction is something you can’t just get over, even if the plot or characters somehow do something you care for.
Current Rating: D.
*) Avatar: The Legend of Korra Season 3 Episode 6-7
Seems the series is moving to digital only, as it didn’t draw in the expected or hoped for rating numbers. This is very much Avatar, even as the plot progresses, we take detours to explore not just the world, but our characters’ lives. More time with Lin and her sister, and Tenzin and Bumi. Hijinks and more serious bonding moments.
An ok week. With Glasslip most likely dropped, I noticed there are a few shows I don’t really care much to find out what’s happening next. Sailor Moon: Crystal might be a drop or on-hold till a few more episodes are out, Argevollen is likely put on hold until the series is done, and Tokyo ESP should probably be dropped – I really find myself not caring at all about what happens there. Well, with all my newfound free time, I’ve been playing more video games and marathoning some shoujo romances, so it’s all good!
Though I don’t stand for the “Three Episode Rule”, what exceeded your expectations, and what ended up dropped?