Still busy with real life schoolwork, but here’s what I think of the past two weeks’ worth of anime episodes I’ve watched. Still need to catch up on Sidonia, but hey, we watch what we can! Some stuff was great, and some stuff was terrible, that’s how this season is.
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 Episodes 8-9 (SNAFU Too!):
Episode 8 was the dramatic core of the entire show up to this point. This is the big conflict everything was building towards. Hachiman overcoming his biggest enemy, his fear, his own self, and comes right out and declares to his friends, to the world, and to himself, the truth he’s been hiding from – that he’s scared of being alone and not understanding others, and that it hurts. And his friends hurt because they suffer from the same issues (Yukino), or because their friends are hurt (Yui). We also had a chat from Sensei where the author took time to explain to us how relationships work, how hurt works, and that once you grow past something that seems all consuming, it doesn’t seem nearly that bad. The author also explained almost every character in that scene, from Tobe and Ebina, to Hayama, to… everyone.
I covered episode 8 at length, here are the entire notes, here’s a post-episode editorial discussing the “ineffability” of human experience, and here’s a small FAQ for everyone who didn’t understand the characters or their motivations in the final scene.
Were it a movie, episode 8 would likely be the penultimate or final scene, but this isn’t, and in real life, life and relationships only begin as people make the choice they’re actually willing to make the effort and fight for their relationship. And there we are, episode 9, where each of the three main female characters takes control of her fate, and reaches out to someone else to help her, to not be alone. Sometimes it works, sometimes it lays the groundwork for future developments, and sometimes it fails and it hurts. Hachiman sees once more that he can’t protect everyone, and they can get hurt. Seeing how Iroha will deal with her hurt and how the group will deal with it will be a strong contrast to episode 2’s conclusion. Also, it was overall a much lighter episode, and that’s good too after the season kept passing us through the wringer up to this point. But man, the visual storytelling of Hikki and Yukino “falling” as they fell in love, supposedly, was really well done, aesthetically.
Read my full notes for the episode here.
2) Ore Monogatari!! / MY Love STORY!! Episodes 7-8:
Episode 7 was more or less what we can expect from Ore Monogatari!! at this stage – cute, fluffy, and without much more to it. Takeo is once more referred to by his physical prowess, he’s a Cool Dude™ and A Nice Guy™ who puts Yamato on a pedestal and literally protects her from any perceived harm. We did get a small nice moment between Yamato and Suna, and Takeo wondered what “real strength” is, to which we did not get an answer, but the undertone seemed to imply, “The strength to protect Yamato(‘s smile)”, cute, but boring.
Episode 8 though was quite good. You see, Yamato and Takeo are in a proto-relationship that is slow-moving and not very interesting, but there is one relationship in the show that goes way back, feels natural, and holds true emotional resonance, and that is Suna and Takeo’s relationship. The episode did a lot of things right here, from evoking emotion by actually holding back on spoken lines to convey someone being hurt, to pointing out that though Takeo and Suna may be as close as brothers (not “bros”, brothers), they are not in fact such. Another point that was very subtle was how whenever Suna recounted tales from their past, the focus was always on Takeo and Suna’s memories of him, rather than any actions he himself took.
They both feel so very close to one another, and this relationship feels genuine, and as something that while it may not move the show “forward”, does make the watching more worthwhile than the romance we’re here to watch, supposedly.
3) Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches / Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo Episodes 5-8:
Episode 5 was the last one where the “main circle” plus Odagiri and Ushio were front and center, the episode where Yamada’s role to find the Witches and help them, for they all are lonely and suffer was established. The show at this point feels very similar in terms of premise to The World God Only Knows, but with more reliance on physical gags, and less time for character development, even as we know we’re only going to have 7 girls to find (at least in the first part), and this is where the show’s began being relatively wonky.
You see, in each of episodes 6 through 8, we met a new witch. We got to meet her, learn what her situation is, help her, and also show how the rest of the club deals with it. I’m of two minds about it, on one hand the first witch thus encountered was really quite annoying, with her entire shtick being meek on the outside but obnoxious and domineering as a telepath. The faster we were done with her, the better. Episode 7’s witch, and especially episode 8’s, which gave us a 27 minute episode (average is closer to 24), voiced by Aoi Yuuki (Madoka, amongst many others) had deeply emotional content, a troubled cast, and a plot back-and-forth that could’ve easily filled two episodes, even before we get into actually depicting how Yamada and the rest of the core cast are doing in their day to day situation.
And that’s why I’m split, we’re in a “Monster of the Week” sort of phase, ala JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders’ first half, and you actually want to get past this sort of thing the fastest you can manage, but sometimes you actually harm the story content that could be great by not letting it breathe, and it feels rushed.
Uneven, rushed, with moments that are just annoying and others that are good, and could’ve been great. And yes, covering 4 episodes here, but the last one was really good, and the position in the rating (which is mostly arbitrary anyway) reflects that.
4) Kekkai Sensen / Blood Blockade Battlefront Episodes 8-9:
Those two episodes actually work great in terms of being discussed together, as they were part of a two-parter, and it seems finally the main plot is actually getting some traction. Except it’s still mostly setup and small allusions and hints backstage, rather than the “Plot” going forward. These two episodes also were organized very similarly, and that manner was interesting, but also left quite a bit to be desired. The first half of each episode focused on Zapp being reunited with his alien Blood Technique master, and the usual hijinks of Zapp being a good for nothing lech and monster fighting. This was light and entertaining, and 15 minutes per episode flew as if they were 3-4 minutes. It was light and fun, but as always, it felt there was no weight, no impact to anything I’ve seen, either on the show’s world or the characters on screen. It’s like Looney Tunes, where everything gets wiped when an episode ends.
Which brings us to the other part of those episodes, White and Black’s backstory, and the involvement with the vampires. In episode 8 in particular, those 5 minutes felt as if they took an entire episode’s length, in my subjective time-sense. It felt oppressive and cloying, and as if it’s an entirely different show. Both halves have merit, but having the most popcorny of shows grafted on top of Aku no Hana just makes for an uncomfortable viewing experience, and neither part seems entirely content with how the other makes use of its time.
Well, it’s interesting, at least.
5) Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works Episodes 20-21 (Cour 2, Episodes 8-9):
I thought it’d never end. Then again, some of us were hopeful that with Caster gone and Archer and Shirou about to fight, we’d get action. Well, we got some action, but there really wasn’t a lot of it. My point is, who’s to say that whatever is to come is going to be any better than this quite bad season up to this point? Archer and Shirou clashed swords, with some good moments, but the episodes were dominated almost entirely by talking heads, of them repeating the same lines continuously, and Shirou just rejecting Archer. That Archer actually wants to reform Shirou was somewhat reinforced by the last episode, but at this point it was hard to find a toss to give.
And we’ve had Rin do nothing, more people die in a manner that didn’t leave the least emotional impact, except when Shinji died in a hilariously visually gratuitous manner (is this Akira or something?). The pacing in this cour is just abysmal, where nothing seems to carry any weight, and things that don’t have weight, or would have some, are stretched beyond the point of not caring. I hope there’d be some fun action, because there are thin vestiges of fun shouneny action underneath, but I’m really not that optimistic at this point, considering Fate/Kaleid Prisma Illya, the slice of life fan-service off-shoot had much better action than this Ufotable action-fest.
Well, Gilgamesh being a bastard was fun, mostly for the voice acting by Seki Tomokazu and how he rolls his words, but at this stage I’d take it. It’s a prime example of “split-cour gone wrong,” with 16 episodes’ worth of time in the first cour, aiming to stop at a particular time, and yet the second half feels stretched and padded beyond measure, while some content still feels not fully supported for what it’s supposed to be doing (all the deaths that left no impact). I really feel if this aired as a 26 episode show, it’d have managed to alleviate some of the boredom I’m now feeling.
I’d drop Fate/Stay Night if it weren’t so close to the finish line. I’ve sometimes dropped or put on hold shows I’ve watched this long and were this close to the finish line, but I often wish I hadn’t. Well, I’d say “It can only get better!” but so I thought once Caster was gone, say. It might not be “fair” to the show, but it earned it at this point.
While Fate/Stay Night is being consistently bad, we have Ore Monogatari!! with a cute but weak episode, Kekkai Sensen with episodes that feel grafted together and contain two solid halves that don’t mesh well together, and Yamada-kun with a mix of bad episodes, good episodes, and moments verging on greatness but rushed in the middle of the pack – there’s good content for every show here, but it’s uneven, and bracketed by bad stuff.
And then we have OreGairu. Episode 8 was great, not just for its own content (that had me tearing up again while looking over screenshots), but because it shows how you can deliver on setup you’ve painstakingly laid. Episode 9 was much more to the liking of the various shippers and comedy-lovers of the first season, but it was still solid enough.
And yes, I need to catch up on Sidonia and watch Euphonium, but schoolwork keeps me busy.
With this season coming to an end, which shows are you exciting about the final act of?