This was not a good week. Not for my mood, and sadly, this week’s bounty of shows had done very little indeed to improve my mood, with most shows being underwhelming if not flat out bad. Knights of Sidonia episode 2 wasn’t watched this week, so it’d appear in next week’s write-up.
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 3 (SNAFU Too!):
Well, another episode where I had a lot to say. This seems to be the trend with OreGairu this season. Thankfully, the other trend is that the show continues to be very good this season, building on everything that went on up to this point, and taking it further, without holding back its punches.
This episode tackled the concept of “Nothing changed, thus it’s all good.” The simple point to attack would be “it’s all good,” but the show’s not as interested in that, as it’s actually a lie that nothing changed. You can’t undo behaviour, and acting as if nothing changed while things did is a change, and it actually draws more attention when everyone looks away, and everyone also knows everyone’s putting on a front.
Yukino and Hachiman have another go at “not being friendly” with one another. I’m also struck again by how similar Yukino and Hachiman are in how they resolve things – they both take it all on them. Not just Hikki, but also Yukino – she ends up doing others’ job for them, such as running the Cultural Festival, and how I foresee her ending up as the Student Council President.
The best part in the episode to me was all the subtext I found in Haruno’s discussion with Hikki as to Yukino’s character, and how we saw Hikki’s scars. The worst part was that the show, thus far, gave us a very two-note and annoying depiction of Iroha. Yes, Hachiman immediately projects his past encounters onto her, but she too seems to only care about herself and her image.
I could keep talking about this show, but I wrote rather in-depth notes for the episode (again), and I’d just point you to them, because there’s so much to point out, and I already did so for the most part.
2) Ore Monogatari!! / My Love Story!! Episode 2:
I finally realized why this show is so weird for me. The whole, “Would he notice?” and things going wrong just as one character is about to confess/notice aren’t things I usually equate with shoujo romance, but with shounen, and with RomComs more than romances, at that. I’m used to shoujo starting with a bang, where at least one character confesses to the other more or less in the first episode.
Well, based on how this episode ended (and yes, manga readers falling all over themselves to “reassure” us anime watchers), it seems like that section will be over soon, and we’ll get to the more standard shoujo territory of dealing, if not with relationships, but with our relations to relationships, and our feelings about, well, feelings.
The episode was filled with Yamato looking cute, me slowly hearing Hachiman from OreGairu using Takeo’s voice (since Eguchi Takuya voices them both(!)), an amused part where shoujo depicts male bonding as looking over at a tree looking like a butt, and sighing some over the Nice Guy™ depiction of Takeo – where he keeps thinking he saves the girl but someone else gets to be with her.
Also, while Takeo keeps wondering why he’s a friend with Sunakawa, the real question is why Sunakawa is a friend with Takeo. Is it because he doesn’t wish to spend the energy to “dump” him, as it were? I think it’s something else. Sunakawa only smiles for Takeo, and laughs until he’s in stitches around Takeo. Sunakawa feels comfortable around Takeo, and that’s all the reason he needs to be his friend. As for Takeo, you know why stories about how good Sunakwa is involve embarrassing moments for Takeo? Because when he’s in a pinch, it’s Sunakawa that helps him, and that shows how great he is.
3) Kekkai Sensen / Blood Blockade Battlefront Episode 3:
So, this drug is going to rock the world, and the implications of what it’s used for, and who’s spreading it. Is it going to get covered? Probably not.
This episode was mostly stand-alone, and a way to further draw the outline of this world and its denizens. Plot? Deep character exploration? All are but distant dreams, and even Leonardo helps support this feel as he transitions between state of awakening as we slip between the states of reality. This is very much the epitome of style over substance, in that it’s not the plot or characters that take center stage, but a combination of atmosphere and style of the in-world, in-show characters and world, and of the people working on this show.
Almost every shot in the show, almost every transition is gorgeous, and it feels as if within these 3 episodes we’ve received more such shots and moments that most seasons barely manage to contain in their entire run, of all shows put together. It’s almost as if the director had been given this show just to show us how cool she is, and how skillful.
And oh boy, she’s pulling it off. An enjoyable vignette. Will all those moments add up to more? Perhaps, and perhaps not, but the sights and sounds of the journey are definitely worthwhile.
4) Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma Episode 3:
This show is a manga adaptation that feels like a light novel adaptation in a key way. No, I’m not talking about all the fan-service, though that certainly doesn’t hurt.
I’m talking about the position of the main character, and how he’s closer to the villain character in most shounen battlers. Most shounen battlers have the main characters start off as weaker, or not fully-formed, and we follow them as they grow stronger, as they overcome obstacles.
Soma though? He’s closer to a light novel protagonist in that he’s already better than everyone else, and he knows it. The “obstacle” he’s overcoming is that not everyone knows how great he is yet.
This was a solid enough episode, aside from the hentacle appearing at the end, because the episode can’t let it go without, but Soma is quite a jerk, and realizing the story structure is much closer to the LN power fantasy than a shounen battler where characters grow and make friends made me less interested.
5) Arslan Senki / The Heroic Legend of Arslan Episode 3:
There’s really not much to be said about this show weekly, you know? Overall solid action, terrible CG horses during cavalry charges, promises of backstory, of revenge, and misdirection, and our happy journey begins. The show is only really beginning here. There’s nothing this show does very well, or very badly, and there’s very little content for me to discuss.
6) Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Episode 15 (Cour 2, episode 3):
Bathos, noun: (especially in a work of literature) an effect of anticlimax created by an unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous.
Last episode promised me awesome fights between Gil and Berserker. Well, the fight wasn’t that awesome, but it did show the show makers grasped the sheer weight of Berserker, his sense of presence in scenes, even if not while he fought. But there’d be no more of that.
What this episode was mostly comprised of was Illya’s tear-jerker backstory. Except it was mired in bathos. I was reminded of Aldnoah.Zero’s first cour’s finale, when blinded Illya clung to a rock, saying how she’s not afraid now she has Berserker with her.
Illya was a non-character in this show. Hammering at us with how cruel fate was to her, with how the world sucks, and then hammering at us with her being slashed at and killed just didn’t work. It’s like seeing someone dismantle a lifeless doll. The show kept telling us how Illya saw herself as said lifeless doll, and how everyone else treated her as such, but in this show, that’s all she’s been.
An episode that relies on us feeling sad for a non-character can at best not succeed, and at worst, as was this case, end up with numerous moments of bathos, as you can’t help but chuckle uncomfortably at the clumsy scenes and story.
7) Plastic Memories Episode 3:
The thematic heart of the episode is something that’s been said before – Isla wishes to be a machine, to avoid making memories, making attachment, to avoid the fear of her upcoming termination that would come alongside it. “Memento Mori” weighs heavily on her, and gifts are physical attachments and memories made form.
The downside is that the rest of this episode was mired in absolutely terrible comedy. We had the “repeat” as we did in the first episode, where Isla and Tsukasa kept getting shot down, but here each go took way too long, and was just so dumb. Tsukasa is 18, he should be able to think things through. I did laugh at Tsukasa going all chuunibyou, but the rest of it was just endless.
I’m going to give this show one more episode, and hope it got all the lazy gags and uninspired jokes out of its system. It’s extra sad because even the comedy worked for me in the first episode :-/
8) Punch Line Episode 2:
Damn the last 4 minutes that referred to Hiki(komori)otani Ito’s background as she was bullied, and made more serious and somber allusions to fleshing out characters!
Wait, why am I complaining a show might be better than it first appeared? Because putting that segment at the end of two episodes filled with nothing but oh so whacky noises and poorly constructed episodes doesn’t make me a fan. It’s making me feel that’s not the true focus of your show, because if it were, why would you make me suffer through all that dross to get there?
This show also engaged in one of Saekano’s largest sins, constantly reminding you how arbitrary and nonsensical things in it are. Saying you know it is not funny, it just makes it even worse that you still engage in it.
Yes, everything might end up “mattering” somehow later on, but the fact of the matter is that I find this show to be mostly unfunny, uncharming, and a mess. Punchline is Samurai Flamenco’s Guillotine Gorilla, without the preceding episodes to make you care about it or the tonal shift when it actually happened.
9) Assassination Classroom / Ansatsu Kyoushitsu Episode 13:
Last week’s episode was one of the best, and the most enjoyable, this show had to offer thus far. This week’s episode was one of, if not the absolute worst.
This show, true to Kishi Seiji’s directorial touch, is as subtle as a sack of bricks to the head. This episode was even less subtle. So we have a teacher who uses violence, after assuming a fatherly guise. Rather than let it slowly develop and be discovered, it’s just brought out as bluntly, and using, a knee to the gut.
The undercurrent of “various teaching methods competing” got brushed out of the way in a “might makes right,” sort of way, and the obvious allusion to the Principal’s methods wasn’t even mentioned. Blech.
Laying it down like that, man, this has been a rough week for my anime watching. Sidonia is absent this week because I didn’t have time and mood for much anime watching, but the shows I’m watching help make it clear why. Only the first is one I felt was great, and only down to the third spot are shows I thoroughly enjoyed. From spot 4 downward the caveats begin appearing, with 6 downward being mostly negative, with some semblance of good stuff here and there.
I’m going to put Arslan Senki on hold, it just progresses so slowly that I feel I won’t enjoy its weekly 20 minutes. Assassination Classroom will either go on hold, or it’d be watched but its weekly write-up will be cut down to a single line. Punchline is probably on hold/dropped, but I may watch another episode, because I hate myself. Plastic Memories as well ran out of the goodwill I gave it, and is going to get one more episode out of me. Things are looking dire. I guess it’s time to turn to my backlog. And before everyone suggests Hibike! Euphonium, I’ll first finish the 5 episodes remaining for me in Hyouka and do my write-up about it before considering it.
I’m not a big believer in “The 3 episode rule,” but if you are, what shows are you still uncertain about, one way or the other?