The season started! Premier write-ups for Punch Line, Ore Monogatari!! (My Love Story!!), and Sidonia no Kishi S2 (Knights of Sidonia), and episode 2 write-ups for everything else. While most episodes this week were decent, I felt it was weaker than last week.
As always, the list is ordered by how much I liked the episodes, combined with how good I thought they were, in a descending order (first is best, last is worst).
1) OreGairu S2 Episode 2 (SNAFU Too!):
I sure had a lot to say about this episode. I mean, here’s a full episodic notes post for it, and here’s a lengthy post-episode editorial detailing the show’s breakdown of self-loathing, and how it relates to the wish of maintaining the status quo, and both leads to self-loathing, and is one’s “punishing” of one’s self for said self-loathing. This season seems to go straight for the jugular in how much it directly attacks the manner in which the characters are built, and how they interact with one another. Or perhaps I just notice it even more since it builds on all that came before.
While I didn’t find the “confession scene” as strong as the show might have desired me to, I found the scenes leading up to it with Hayama and Hachiman, and Hachiman and Miura, and the scenes that followed from it pretty great. The shot framing in this episode was quite effective as well, even if it got a bit repetitive; then again, that might be a metaphor for how the show sees life as a teenager, with everyone going through the same motions. And that’s the final point, almost everyone in the show is going through the exact same thing. Humans are, after all, humans.
2) Kekkai Sensen / Blood Blockade Battlefront Episode 2:
I’m not sure how to discuss this show on a weekly basis, because thus far it doesn’t really lend itself to it. Good action, engaging characters, you can really see how it’s filling for the high octane and slightly goofy slot created by shows such as early Kill la Kill, Baccano!, and even Trigun. Masterful shots, and alternateting between the over-the-top action as Klaus finally saved Leonard, to the silly moments where Leonard keeps running into Zapp and him finally blowing his gasket later about Zapp’s “generosity,”, to the quiet scene in the end where we’re introduced to Shiro? The show is just masterfully handled, and the introduction of a Kyousougiga-esque young Koto character, voiced by Kugimiya Rie fills me with delight.
Would I like some more “story” to go on? Certainly. I do find it interesting they’re painting their characters via small details, rather than tackling them more heavily via exposition. I’m certainly on board for the ride in terms of fun, but only time will tell if the show gives me something more meaningful on a level other than directing.
Oh yes, the ED is extremely stylish, but I don’t care for its sound all that much, though it’s still stylish and energetic.
3) Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki / Knights of Sidonia: Battle for Planet Nine Episode 1:
What a dense episode. It’s always an interesting position to be in, in the first episode of a returning show. Do you take time to let us be reintroduced to the cast, see how being Izana is suffering, and how dense Tanikaze is, or do you drop us right back into the action? Although there’s a bit of the former, Sidonia mostly decided to go with the latter, dropping a bunch of plot-bombs on us that could’ve left us all at the edge of our seats as a season finale, but here serve to show how much content the series is interested in tackling this season.
An enemy within, the nature of humanity, what sort of aid is acceptable, and more, here in Knights of Sidonia! The palette seemed to be even more red-focused than usual as well. Was this episode somewhat rushed? I’m not sure, but it really was dense, like last season’s planet-cracker missile.
4) Ore Monogatari!! / My Love Story!! Episode 1:
Many shoujo romances have exceedingly strong premiers, with shows such as Sukitte Ii na Yo (Say “I Love You”) and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun (My Little Monster) sticking in my mind from recent viewings as examples. The show more or less starts not only with a realization of love, but admittance of it, and then working, almost backwards, to make sense of the situation. Ore Monogatari!!’s premier is one that I’ve seen highly lauded, and it was indeed charming and well-handled, but it actually felt much slower and less eventful than is usual for the norm.
Although Takeo is indeed not your standard fare for a heroine, being a boy, the show doesn’t deviate much from what is standard fare for such shows. Funny reaction faces, some jealousy, pining for someone who’s much more popular than you are. All are familiar beats. Shoujo romance anime adaptations do have a tendency to be comfort food, so you should know that stepping in. I for one like it. The show was amusing, and Takeo is a likeable narrator, even if his mixture of “nice-guy” and putting himself down do get a bit tired already. I can already see that the show is setting up the “Everyone has the same conflicts,” where Takeo is resolved to help his crush, Yamato, win his best “friend”‘s heart, but said best friend in most likelihood turns down all the girls Takeo is after because he knows Takeo likes them.
Well, we wouldn’t have RomComs without some misunderstandings. I don’t expect this show to surprise me, but that’s not the hallmark of a good show. I expect to enjoy it, and its familiar beats, and Madhouse’s Chihayafuru team seems a good fit. Ah, yes, if there’s anything where this show truly differs from most shoujo romance adaptations thus far, it’d be in its sharp character designs and lush backgrounds, as opposed to the animation-lacking and pastel backgrounds treatment most shoujo romance adaptations seem to receive.
5) Assassination Classroom / Ansatsu Kyoushitsu Episode 12:
An episode where it’s not Koro-sensei and the morals front and center! Yes, it’s still about helping the students achieve their goals, to stand against those who will try to put them down, but so are many other shows, and this felt like a worthwhile episode from a sports show, rather than a regular Assassination Classroom episode where the morals being beaten into our heads feels like the main point. I found this episode, and the way everyone tried to outsmart one another, turning the other coach’s gambit against them, coupled with the physical comedy I tend to associate with anime baseball episodes very enjoyable.
6) Plastic Memories Episode 2:
The first episode was my favourite premier of the season. It introduced us to the themes of the show, several of the characters involved, the situation, what is at stake, and had done so while also mixing in drama and great comic timing. The second episode spent more time reintroducing the characters, spelling out what’s at stake with Isla’s time coming to end soon, in case it flew over anyone’s head. The humor didn’t work as well this time around either.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Though we’ve met the characters before and this episode mostly repeated a lot of it, we call that “filling in the blanks,” and is part of what is needed to make the characters feel like fully realized characters. Michiru (the younger red-head) is a tsundere, and Kazuki (the leader red-head) is gruff but cares deeply. We knew both of those, and fleshing out stereotypes by just giving them more stereotypical details isn’t the best. Isla did explore her reason for doing things, with her upcoming death, which is a theme all humans must struggle with, and was somewhat reflected by Tsukasa’s position, of only being there to do a job, not because he desired it.
But that’s life, doing the best with the hand we’re dealt, and with the knowledge it’s going to all go away, isn’t it?
7) Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Episode 14 (Cour 2, episode 2):
This episode had 3 distinct portions. In the first, Shirou and Rin get to chatter some more about their ideals, bring up Kant (“I can’t tell you to stop being an idealist fool, because hey, it saved me!”), and Rin is reduced to being nothing beyond a tsundere caricature, which is awfully disappointing. A one-note characterization such as this is palatable as season, not as a character’s identity.
Then we had the second part, which showed us Medea’s background in the war, complete with her caricature Master, and her anguish and angst over her situation. To be honest, this section felt quite weak, and if it were meant to make us think of Caster us a more nuanced character, or more sympathetic, it didn’t do much for it. That her master was so comically villainous as to compete with Shinji was a large part of it.
Then came the best section, the one that promised things to come, with “Blondie” dropping Shinji unceremoniously onto the Einzbern villa, dispatching Illyasviel’s small-s servants, and the episode ended just before a fight between Gil and Berserker could be carried out, a fight to which Shirou and Rin are also headed. And of course, Berserker tends to have issues with the Archer class, hue. Well, seems next episode will be fun, and visually gratifying, at the very least. I’m looking forward to it. The underwhelming first two sections at least tried to flesh things out, and dealt with the show’s themes, it’s just that they fell flat.
8) Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma Episode 2:
If I had to pick one phrase to describe this episode, and this show up to this point, it’d have to be “over the top”. Is what it’s showing us the usual shounen fare and we only notice how ridiculous it is because it’s dealing with food rather than combat, or a physical sport such as basketball? Is it as ridiculous as other shows, and this is the standard? While it’s true to a degree, and this makes what is there feel even more over the top than it already is, I think it’s undoubtable that this show is going the extra mile. The fanservice is not a cause, but another sign that it is so.
I laughed when we saw Baby Erina spit out the flavourless maternal milk, and the episode itself wasn’t very exciting – mostly posing. While a lot of the excitement in such shows does in fact come from said posturing and the theatrics, you first need to set some stakes and characters, or increase the impact of the scene themselves, I’d say. Also, if every single scene is over the top and comes off “strong”, then there’s no real tension in any scene compared to the others. This episode had a lot of small moments, small elements I like, as I’m wont to like shounonsense, but they didn’t gel to anything special.
9) Arslan Senki / The Heroic Legend of Arslan Episode 2:
This was a well-constructed episode. We’ve kept showing Arslan’s father, and how he deals with everyone who does not fall in step with his decrees, and yet, he does not let pride blind him and will later make sure of things, if an argument is made to convince him. But that’s where Arslan’s father’s failure is shown to be, in how he treats people, the opposite of the “soft” depiction of his line. Everything in the king is angular, sharp, and hard, from his face, to his voice, to his actions.
Not all is well in the realm, and enemies are found within as well. Dark Avenger Daryun was pretty darn cool to see, and while this episode had a lot of events and was paced well, it just failed to grab me yet. I can’t wait for the set-up section to finalize, so we could see Arslan and his companions on their journey.
10) Punch Line Episode 1:
Well, this sure was something. An explosive start, in media res of a kidnapping, a hero appears to save us. Vibrant colours, the protagonist powers up and tackles the criminals about to take on Strange Juice, the superhero. And then we get an exposition spirit cat, with an annoying voice, and things get weird. So, our protagonist powers up by seeing panties, but if he sees them twice, an asteroid will crash into Earth and the world will be over. At which point our protagonist who’s now a spirit after losing his body will go back in time and try to do it again.
FLCL had a child with The Tatami Galaxy. But things just feel so cumbersome in how they’re constructed, and while numerous bits work on their own they just don’t mesh well together. What is this show even trying to do? At which point will it start tackling its themes rather than pushing weird events and colourful moments at us, with excuses to show us panties?
This show could end up brilliantly messy, but right now it just feels like a mess. Many of the events and details seem like they want to point at something more serious, but as if it has to keep coexisting with this juvenile creation. I’ll likely give it another episode to convince me it has a direction, because what it really feels like is like an elaborate 4-koma skit, and an entire episode for a single sketch at a time is far too long.
11) Denpa Kyoshi / Ultimate Otaku Teacher Episode 2:
The season premier wasn’t bad, it just lacked anything to make it good. Depending on how you score, it can be seen as “bad” if you add points from the bottom, or “mediocre” if you score by removing points for “bad things”. Well, the second episode was much worse. Aside from terrible art and voice acting continuing to be the norm. Furthermore, not only was the episode not funny, I couldn’t even really spot many moments where it even tried to be funny, beyond “Otaku sure do love their collectibles!”
Theme/story? An episode about the concept of assuming responsibility, where the main character who should be making this decision is saved from having to own up for anything, and cheating being pushed in the last moment as the solution. It’s as if the person writing the last few minutes in the episode didn’t watch anything that preceded it.
Dropped. There’s really no reason to watch it. Even if you’re a fan of anime comedy as I am not, there are numerous better alternatives. Almost any will do.
So. This was a somewhat weird week for me, as I consider everything down to #9 to have been solid, and only #11 to have been flat out bad. This means that my pre-season stricter criteria for picking up shows worked! Except, aside from the first two shows on the list, maybe three, nothing actually impressed me. So while nothing stood out as bad, it’s also that nothing really stood out as exceptional.
Yes, a show takes time to truly introduce all the characters and situations and get you invested, but where’s the energy that marks the beginning of a season? If anything, it felt most shows regressed from stronger premiers, and are now paying for the strong premiers – they didn’t simply cut out the exposition, they just delayed it by a weak. Well. I’m not complaining too much, it’s mostly that by removing everything bad, I’ve raised the floor, and am complaining about stuff not being good.
Then again, that was my criterion for picking less shows this season, so I do hope everything starts moving along.
Dear readers, any show where the 2nd episode vastly changed your opinion on the show?