Three first impressions (Beautiful Bones – Sakurako-san, Perfect Insider, and Garo Season 2), and episode 2 of everything else. Considering last week I spoke of how multiple shows didn’t really tell us what they’re like in their premieres, let’s see how they did with their second episodes.
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). Numbers in parentheses are change from last week. I’m also going to give each premiere a couple of scores, “Premiere Score” for how well it did its job as a premiere, and “Episode Score”, for how well it worked as a regular episode.
1) Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans / Kidou Senshi Gundam: Tekketsu no Orphans Episode 2 (+3):
Following a good premiere, Orphans delivered another good episode that did some serious job in fleshing out its characters, and was actually relatively subtle about its characterization of them, showing us how Mikazuki and the rest of the Space Rats lack either past or future, using their illiteracy both as a metaphor for their situation and as a possible cause of it. They do what they do not for anyone else, not to save Kudelia, but for one another, and because they have nothing else. They’re much lower on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but their self-respect still plays a part, as this is Gundam, and “villainy versus chivalry”, or “means well” versus “Doesn’t even try” is a very real theme.
I also liked how the action sequences kept making use of dust, an element that wasn’t used just once and forgotten, and also doubles-down on the poor conditions of Mars. What I didn’t care for was how unsubtle the show was in showing us how badly things are on Mars when Kudelia spoke, or the pretty extreme comedy moments (“Oh, I forgot to refuel the Gundam’s thrusters!”) in the middle of otherwise very serious moments, especially considering the overall mood of the show.
2) One Punch Man Episode 2 (+0):
This episode was much more uneven than the premiere. The first half gave us awesome fight sequences, a yandere Sawashiro Miyuki, cool explosions, some nice deadpan reactions, and proper mosquito hatred. It was glorious. The second half though was much less to my liking, starting from drawing a joke on for far too long (and yes, that was the entire point of the gag, but it was still not enjoyable, nor funny), to the enemies in the second half of the episode being neither interesting, nor “original”, meaning that the whole fight sequence felt like a rehash of the Underterrans from the first episode, combined with the mood of the Crab-man. It was just not exciting or as fresh as everything else in the show thus far. I did like how they managed to get across the “Gorilla-ness” of the Gorilla even before it was clearly revealed as one.
But seriously, yandere Sawashiro Miyuki? That was great. Watch Btooom!, y’all.
3) Ushio to Tora / Ushio and Tora Episode 15 (-2):
Ushio and Tora, well, not too much to say here on this episode on its own, because it is half of a two-parter, though it’s not titled as such. It’s morality plays all along. Ushio is beginning to feel guilty for how he puts those around him at risk, which also plays into this arc’s theme of whether he feels he’s the one who should keep on carrying the Beast Spear or not, and then we have Jun and her brother. A fellow and much respected exorcist, who is being taken over by the spirits. Will killing him be the right move, to save everyone else, and his own soul, or should they risk themselves to save him, no matter the risk and costs? Well, they’re going to try and save him, but in this show, victories often come with a price (such as the third sibling of the Kagutsuchi). We’ll see.
4) Beautiful Bones – Sakurako’s Investigation / Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru Episode 1 (New):
Forget about “an actual romance, involving an adult character”, this is based on a light novel, and you can see it. Main character’s “male gaze” is definitely something that exists, and the show pushes it. Everything in this show is sort of turned p to 11, from the music (which I liked), the lovely backgrounds, or the use of filters that was neat but also heavy-handed. This show definitely feels as if it’s designed to please the crowd the liked Hyouka, with its “world-weary” protagonist, its literary conceits, but isn’t as good. I actually really enjoyed the interaction between the two main leads, that even if they’re not romantically involved have a good chemistry that reminds me a mixture of Chuunibyou and Steins;Gate.
Is the show hammy? It certainly is, with lines such as “The skull is the most elonquent bone,” and the mystery wasn’t much of one yet, but, and this is the important bit, I actually enjoyed watching it, and got a good idea of what the cast is like, even if not entirely what they’ll be up to, besides staring at bones and solving crimes with “Bone-Vision”. I do hope they’ll lay a bit lower on some of the more tropey aspects though. Then again, “trying to sound deep Sakurako who gets scolded by Shoutarou” is a trope, that was well-handled here.
Premiere Score: 7/10. Episode Score: 6.5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 7/10.
5) Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider Episode 1 (New):
This episode covered just about nothing from the premise of the show, and felt more like a prelude where we get to observe our characters before they actually go and do what the show is about. Sadly, the character who spoke the most in this show was Professor Saikawa, who kept spouting basic pop-psychology and Introduction to Philosophy ideas as if they were deep and meaningful, but sounded as if someone wrote “Self-conscious cynical teen, as a genius adult,” while being neither a genius nor an adult. Did the show do some work at showing us he’s somewhat of a joke? Sure, just as much as it spent time subtly painting him as indeed being all of that, and being the object of adoration by Moe, who was actually well-characterized, but as a character who is there only to interact with the show’s “geniuses” wasn’t too interesting either.
The show could go places, but I kept facepalming non-stop this episode, and while there was valuable job being done in this episode, most of it was pretty dreary. It’s the “setup tax”.
Premiere Score: 5/10. Episode Score: 7/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 6/10.
6) Concrete Revolutio Episode 2 (-1):
We’re still introducing members of the cast, but this is the final member who’s core, even if we don’t really know much about the cast itself. This episode did help with showing what sort of theme/concept the show is going for, to show us the happy and “simple” days of the past, and then to show us that while everything might have appeared cheerful, or clear-cut, it wasn’t really such, and there’s been a lot more going on in the background, enough to cause allies to turn on one another. Fuurota the clown who then cried and wished he could grow up might’ve been well-done, but the world around them and character interactions are still somewhat lacking. Fuurota did feel like a real person at least, with how he tried to break Kikko’s heart so he’d have a shot with her, and then grew up some when we had the time-skip.
I wrote a small post-episode piece on this episode, which you can read here.
7) Heavy Object Episode 2 (-1):
This was a much better episode than the premiere, but it was still pretty bad. We actually had action, and character interactions, and morality plays. Except the enemies were vilified to remove any serious thought on Qwenthur’s side of whether it’s fine, we’ve had our 14 year old “Princess Pilot” fall boob-first on Qwenthur’s hands, and him commenting on them at length, in a life and death situation, and Milinda went on and on about how she’s “terrible for having looked down on the other soldiers for thinking them helpless without her,” which thankfully the other characters point out is true. We’ve had “Someone so noble? I must go and save them!” which of course paints said person as just as noble, and thus the “Who saves whom” tired trope.
Yes, we’ve had some good action, but it was all buried under tired and archaic tropes, and that the characters in the show operate under archaic notions of shounen chivalry isn’t helping either. At least the rest of the setting seems to punish them for this naivete, even if they manage to make it through at the very last moment each time. This show is hanging on by the skins of its teeth. Had all the tropey moments been removed, it’d be better, but it’s actually a trope-driven show, in what actually motivates characters to go and do things are the tropes, of saving others, of “we can do the impossible,” etc.
8) Garo: Guren no Tsuki / Garo: The Crimson Moon Episode 1 (New):
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Garo’s premiere, except it wasn’t very grabby. There’s nothing particularly wrong with an episode that made me more bored than the premieres for KanColle and Koufuku Graffiti did back in the Winter season, but it does mean I couldn’t wait for the episode to end and drop the show. So, what did we actually have in this show? Pretty backgrounds, amazing music, and art-styles that are all over the place, with CG power armours intermixed with the lovely and sharply-drawn Seimei, to a kid that looks, sounds, and acts as if he popped out of a show aimed at 7 years olds, and boy, was he annoying.
Demons who take over the city and people with dark desires, a ruler who only cares whether he himself is protected, some action, some puppy eyes, and talk of honour and horrors. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of it. Dropped.
Premiere Score: 6.5/10. Episode Score: 5/10. Personal Enjoyment Score: 3/10.
Kagewani Episode 2:
The sound design continues to be the highlight of this short series. It’s absolutely on point, with the sound enhancing the tension in the suitable places. The way in which her late father’s music box saved her was very “campfire ghost story,” which is fitting for the sort of show this is, but if I were into making a point about suspension of disbelief, how long the yeti stared through her would’ve snapped it.
I do wonder when we’ll finally see Banba’s story, and whether it’d become more continuous at that point. I’m still not excited or very interested in the show, but this was a very decent episode, especially with how they let us understand on our own why characters did what they did. I’m still not sold on the show, but with 8 minutes an episode, I’ll stay on this train for a while longer.
Overall Thoughts on the Week: The order above might be misleading, in that only the Gundam episode was “Really good” as far as I’m concerned, and everything from One Punch Man to Concrete Revolutio was between solid to “mostly fine, but uneven”. Heavy Object was pretty bad, and Garo just failed spectacularly to interest me on any level. How’s the season looking to me thus far? “Promising” is still a word I’d ascribe to a number of shows, but I still don’t know how they’ll fare, especially Sakurako and Perfect Insider who didn’t do too much in their premieres, and are the biggest wild-cards out there currently.
A bunch of shows I found the episodes of fine, and that’s good enough for now.
About Sakurako and Perfect Insider, both appeal to the same “literary and so-smart” audiences that would empathize with OreGairu’s Hachiman and Aku no Hana’s Kasuga, and while Perfect Insider is more likely to be “a great show”, I just enjoyed Sakurako more. Sure, I groaned at Sakurako’s more light novel-esque segments, but with Perfect Insider I found myself groaning at half the ideas the character who spoke the most uttered. So it goes, and in the end, this is a hobby and I watch it for the sake of enjoyment, and Perfect Insider still didn’t introduce the sort of ideas that’d be fun for me to analyze.
Notable absentees: Lupin III had no one properly subtitle its 2nd episode. It’s out there, but it’s poorly presented, so I’d pass.
Any 2nd episodes that greatly changed your reaction to a show? What did you think of the 2nd round of premieres?