Week 3 of the Winter season, but most shows only had two episodes. Still, we’re starting to see the season (of Durarara!!’s return!) shape up, and it’s not at all bad! There won’t be Yuri Kuma Arashi (Lily Bear Storm) this week, because being sick, I postponed watching it. The write-ups this week are pretty long, so I’d like to hear your thoughts – would you rather have a single paragraph summary of my thoughts, perhaps with a link to the 3-4 paragraphs detailing more thematic breakdown, or do you like all the text?
As always, links in title are to full write-ups (for very few shows this time around), while the shows are ordered by how much I liked the episode, compared to the others.
The shows covered will be Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu), Death Parade, Durarara!!x2, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt arc, Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch), Log Horizon S2, Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano), Shirobako, The Rolling Girls, and Tokyo Ghoul Root A.
1) Durarara!!x2 Shou episode 2:
So, let’s start with the obvious question – how is it relevant for us to hear of all the new Raira academy students in order to understand what’s up with Celty and Shinra? And it’s obvious, because all the stories in Durarara!! connect to one another. Celty’s money was found by the twins, who ran into the man Shizuo smacked silly (and here we see the “Damn thieves!” moment from the previous episode), and who might end up being treated by Shinra. Everything relates to the Dollars, and Mikado is going to meet with the other student who wants to be in the dollars, and is now involved with the twins…
… and yes, explaining how Durarara!! works gets very silly, which is why we actually watch it, rather than discuss it, right?
And here we get to the other thing about this episode. When I go over all that happened in this episode, it’s like I watched three episodes. I’m not talking just about all the disparate storylines, which will fit three episodes, but justhow much happened. Also, Durarara!! has a huge cast, of very interesting characters who stand out, and we’re introducing even more?
I can get why Orihara hates his sisters. He loves people, he finds them interesting, which makes him want to know what makes them tick. So why would he hate his sisters, aside from being annoyed by their presence? Because there is no reason or rhyme. Why is one bookish, and wears gym clothes everywhere? Because she flipped a coin. There’s nothing deeper there.
I did like how the new student, Kuronuma Aoba stressed out several times that he’s not chivalric, and he’s not doing it for justice – otherwise, he should’ve stopped the vandals before they scribbled on Kururi’s table. You know who else is like him? Kururi, who watched them vandalize her own table and did nothing about it.
And you know who else is like those two? Izaya. Izaya who does things not because they’re sensible, but because they’re more fun. And that’s the real reason Izaya dislikes his sisters – they remind him too much of himself. And it’s interesting that the girl acting like Izaya finds herself fond of someone who is like her brother as well, like herself.
2) Shirobako episode 14:
This episode was painful. You only needed to see my Twitter stream. Man, was it painful seeing that committee, and it never ended. I will say this though, there’s a reason popular voice actors get popular to begin with, which is why picking them for the added value of popularity might not be a bad call. Also, I doubt the anime staff get their way so often.
This show is often about the realities of the real world. Last week we’ve had Miyamori face the result of being good at your job – being saddled with more responsibilities, but not necessarily more power. Here, we see how decisions by committees where each participant has different, orthogonal goals works out. If anything here was unrealistic, I suspect it is how much the anime team got away with. Of course, the media people probably don’t act like this, but the sentiment is right – each business partner is out to protect their own interests.
The meeting didn’t end, which was the point. And then we had the girls sad as, and because their friend tried to cheer them up, while she was the sad one.
3) Death Parade episode 2:
Death Billiards short – “This is a tiger or princess situation,” where we don’t know whether one will end in hell or heaven.
Death Parade episode 1 – “So we know who went where, but which is good or bad is a tiger or princess situation,” is “the void” bad or good? And reincarnation? I was glad we got “humanity on display”, even if they spelled out the result for us.
Episode 2, we see a statue of the Buddha, and learn the arbiters can make mistakes. This might even be about whether “the void” which was described negatively (“sent to the darkness of the void”) is actually negative. So, itis a Tiger and the Princess situation, but not just to us, but the characters making the call as well! Were Machiko lying? Well, turns out she did have an affair, because they can check their memories, but she was saying the truth, and also lying, in order to make Takashi feel better, as I thought. But, it’s only a possibility.
This is pretty great, in how it opens up all the questions that were open previously, and even opens up more – were the arbiters right? Why did they make the decision they have? This show is about humanity, and not just the humans who play the game, but about the fallible arbiters. Human, through and through.
So, will it be a tiger, or a princess, behind the door?
4) Parasyte: The Maxim (Kiseiju) episode 14:
This show remains both good, and somewhat a casualty of the episodic structure. Not a lot happens in each episode, and because everything that happens is part of, not merely a narrative, but a process within the narrative, a very gradual change, it’s hard to discuss each episode in a discrete fashion. It’s not even just a question of “change”, as much as it is slowly layering the changes that occurred, and the intricacies which comprise a person’s selfhood.
If last week over episodes 12-13 I said how Shinichi is very much a regular normal boy in an abnormal situation, here it seems he isn’t. The parasites, both Tamiya Ryouko and Migi seem to be picking up group-oriented behaviour, of which understanding and empathy are cornerstones, not for reasons of “niceness”, but because they make working together for the benefit of the group that much more efficient. Shinichi comments on how Migi is acting uncharacteristically, and how it’s a “show”, but it’s a “show” designed to bring about the most beneficial and efficient results. If that is the case, does it mean if it’s been actively premeditated or the result of ingrained conditioning?
As it happened, I found Ryouko’s laughing scene very interesting, as I likened it to someone wearing someone else’s suit and trying to make it work. Why do the parasite faces seem so inhuman, so frozen? Because they only change when their controllers actively think of the emotion they should display. I have previously likened Shinichi to someone who’s trying to retrace his old steps, who’s trying to walk himself as a puppet through the ruins of his life.
It’s the same thing, and then when the episode ended, he too looked like someone laughing not because it’s funny, but because he’s “supposed to”, he too looked like someone moving his body as if by remote control. He no longer feels as if it’s his life, his body. He’s losing, not his humanity, but his self-identity as a human.
5) Junketsu no Maria (Maria the Virgin Witch) episode 2:
Not a comedy, and I’m fine with it! Though we did have a few moments that were worth a laugh, they were just there in the background, rather than the true focus of the episode.
The discussion between Maria and Michael was certainly interesting, and even before he said so directly, it was clear to me it was meant as an act of mercy, making Maria stop helping people, because it’s futile. It’s worse than futile, as it’d make her culpable.
“Why aren’t you saving those other people?” – Shows that she’s naive in thinking she can save the world, that she’s being selfish and helping those close to her. As she said, this is the first village that accepted her. But what’s wrong with that, right? She’s still making the world a bit better, where she can. And then there’s the other part of it, by helping her village fend off brigands, she either leads to her villagers becoming killers, or by redirecting the anger of the famished brigands to another village.
An immortal angel, rather than a beacon of hope of changing human nature, but a pillar of cynicism, having grown to accept that this is human nature, and that stopping wars is meddling with it. I find the show interesting and well-acted, even if not “amazing”, but it’s currently the surprise of the season. In what it is (not a comedy), for certain. Still didn’t get to the “Must remain a virgin” bit, and the hijinks that will surely ensue.
Also, rewatched that scene from episode 1 where Maria appears and stops the battle. What an absolutely terrific scene.
I said last week that Rolling Girls has a 2-part premier that was unfortunately cut into two parts. I further said that it’d be the reason of why our main characters went on a journey, which would be our true show.
All of that happened. But unfortunately, it wasn’t handled all that well, and I think less of this episode than of the first. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the spectacle quite a bit, and even why Masami decided to adopt the persona of Nozomi (which when the episode ended we saw was justified) was a scene that got to me. But, we have four main characters, of which we know one a tiny bit, and the other three not at all. Them leaving the town and the reasons surrounding it weren’t nearly as “oomph”-packing as it could, and should have been. There’s no urgency.
The real show starts next episode, and I have no idea what it’d be like, or what sort of characters will occupy it. This was a nice spectacle, and not bad, but it wasn’t all it could be, and it didn’t feel like it fulfilled the narrative purpose it should’ve. I’d have honestly released this pre-season or post-season as an “Episode 0 OVA” or something. Well, time will tell.
7) Assassination Classroom (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu) episode 2:
First Episode – “We are killers”. Second Episode – A government agent who gave the kids this task comments on how weird it is, to have kids as killers, and have them happy about it. It did feel a bit preachy, how it directly and literally said “The successful kids are unhappy and lead grey lives, while these looked down upon students have joy in their life.”
It’s very much a lesser Great Teacher Onizuka, except with a more down to earth and less extreme teacher. Yes, Onizuka is that much of a character.
Next episode? A teacher-killer! How will he be incorporated into Koro-sensei’s happy “Find what you’re good at” regime? It’s an alright show. Nothing special, but it’s not bad.
8) Log Horizon S2 episode 15:
The comfiest of episodes! Featuring everyone having fun together, facing stage fright, being told to follow their dreams. Everyone being told out loud that this is for them to grow up, to become independent, rather than rely on the more experienced adventurers. Of course, the boys go buy swords while the girls go look at flutes. Talking in show about how they realize everyone cares for them, and that the characters in the show aren’t completely oblivious was neat.
At the end of the day, this episode was of the sort we’re given quite a bit by Log Horizon, where the atmosphere is the real star, where we just get to spend time with the characters. Still, it could’ve probably been done in half, if not a quarter, of the time. Aside from “comfy”, you could also describe it as “uneventful”.
P.S. Please delete Tetra.
9) Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Saekano) / How to Train a Boring Girlfriend) episode 1:
The first part of the OVA, aside from the obvious stuff (ha!), was how self-indulgent it was, how proud of itself for its meta-talk, while it was discussing how boring meta-talk is. Saying you have a problem while you proudly engage in it isn’t better, but worse.
I think I might keep up with this show for a while, while trying to turn my brain off a bit. I wanted a tropey RomCom, and I sort of got one, and these often don’t benefit from me nitpicking their issues. But dammit, they keep going on and on about “Yeah, it sounds like an event I’ve seen a million times that’s been done to death,” and “Boy meets beautiful girl, they flirt, then share a joyous kiss. The end,” or even “All I see is a mishmash of parts I’ve seen elsewhere.” No, that’s not helping. Of course, all the super popular girls have it for our personality-less protagonist who doesn’t want them…
The more I think about it, the more I realize I’m finding excuses to watch this show, while my backlog has more worthwhile RomComs, or even some older favourites I might want to rewatch (such as Kaichou wa Maid-Sama!). Yup, dropped, though I might check it out again around week 3-4.
P.S. Constantly showing us thigh and skirt shots while girls are talking, or showing us everything but their faces does nothing to endear the show further to me.
10) JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc (2nd season) episode 2:
This was a better episode than last one, and we’ve had some good and over the top action, and people being ridiculous in the usual JoJo manner, but it’s still the same as the first season of Stardust Crusaders, with its monster of the week structure, glacial pacing, and the best from this cast isn’t very engaging.
The show needs to change its pace, or change its characters’ behaviour somewhat. No, having a dog that isn’t brutally butchered within moments isn’t enough.
11) Tokyo Ghoul Root A episode 2:
This show always had a drama aspect to it, exploring the daily lives of a slightly expanded cast, showing us both sides, so we could get invested, and seeing what the costs are. We’ve had a time-skip here, and spent the entire episode without the main character of the show. I think was a very bad idea.
Yes, it got me curious to see what Kaneki is doing (and why), but since that is what we’re here to see, and then to see how everyone else reacts to it, this episode was pure filler in terms of how it just delayed what this showshould be doing.
I’ll probably check the next episode as well, to see it tackling that, but I don’t have much faith after those two episodes.
Not much romance to be had, or comedies. The action quotient is also not that high, as most action shows appear to be too “Light Novel Harem Action” to me (and yes, I should check Yatterman). But dramas! I love dramas! And while the season as a whole doesn’t wow me, it’s shaping up to be quite above average. A couple of stand-outs and everything else being mediocre is not as good as no stand outs but everything being “very good”, from where I’m looking at things. Still need to drop a couple more shows, but considering how a couple of shows keep disappointing me, it should happen relatively soon.
And the season does have its stand-out shows, mostly in the form of the ever-strong Shirobako, the returning Durarara!!, and the new Death Parade.
Any show where the second episode, or third, vastly changed your thoughts on the show up to that point? And I expect to hear many mentions of KanColle, of course.