Another week, and since proper subtitles for a show I was awaiting began appearing, and as my docket keeps dwindling, I actually checked out another show! This season’s “average” shows are falling behind, but the new show might be a keeper.
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) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episode 4:
My main reaction after each episode of BokuMachi is the same – “Why do I have to wait a whole week for the next episode?” Yes, episode 1 ended with a massive cliffhanger, and so did this episode, and episode 3 ended with a sort of ominous foretelling that was a bit of a misdirection, but it’s not really about that, because in my memory, episode 3 ended after Kayo and Satoru went to the tree. And yet, what I want, what I need is more of this show.
This episode in particular was optimistic, it kept swelling up with determination, with forward-momentum, with hope that Satoru will be able to make things right. There were obstacles, but he beat them down one after another. Even the cinematography, using a tracking lateral shot where he catches up on the frame, catches up on time played along with (you can see a variation of this in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, where director Itou Tomohiko was the assistant director).
And then it all came crushing down. Things are not so easy. The world will not allow itself to be changed so easily. And it will not allow us to skip the intervening weeks, as we wait for the next episode of BokuMachi, alas. Savour the sweetness, because like everything else, it does not last forever. Not even when you can travel in time.
2) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 4:
The big thing in this episode was Shin and Bon’s relationship. The yaoi mangaka tendencies sure come out. You could say that Shin is portrayed as extremely masculine, and constantly references his masculinity, and Bon is portrayed as feminine, and reserved, and collected. But more than that is that Shin-chan is presented as the unruly boy, the unruly son, with Bon not just as a woman, or as a parent, but as if he’s Shin-chan’s mother. Which of course gives another read to Shin’s reaction of Bon perhaps finding someone else to give his affection to – not as a would-be jilted “lover”, but as a boy seeing his mother finding a new husband, or another child. And Miyokichi referencing to Bon as an older brother is part of it – Shin still needs and wants Bon’s attention and affection.
There was also the talk of flaws, but the show addressed that quite clearly on its own. It’s nice when a show about art actually discusses art in a sensible manner, isn’t it? I did find the relationship with Miyokichi almost oedipal – she’s their foster father’s mistress, and yet the “sons” compete with their father, and with one another, over her affectations. This was the first time we’ve seen shin slightly colder with Bon, was it over jealousy, or over disapproval of going after their “father”‘s mistress?
Also, if we hadn’t known this would be over a woman, I’d have believed that this is a romantic relationship between those two. The BL overtones really are there. Then again, I know of close friends who are like that without there being any romantic or sexual undertones there, it’s just that this isn’t usually how most stories engage in these things – without turning it invariably into a romantic relationship.
Also, a small note, it really is the music holding this show together as a drama. I can’t really point out when and where as clearly as I’d like, but that’s what I feel watching this show. There was the music in the final scene, for instance.
3) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episode 16 (S2 episode 4):
I was fine with the way this episode ended, but then, that preview for next episode. Welp. Seems those of us who wanted some more excitement and plot are going to get it. There is an interesting point here, is Shirayuki here to be saved? She was in need of external saving before, as was Zen in his childhood. But that’s the other part of the show’s morals, on one hand it keeps preaching about how one should be self-sufficient and better themselves, but on the other, it also tells us that we need to learn how to rely on those who wish to support us.
Anyway, this episode had more Raj growth moments, and the show being very clear about Obi developing feelings for Shirayuki. I wonder where they’ll go with it.
4) Ajin Episodes 1-2:
So, Ajin, a show without simulcasting, and who didn’t get proper fansubs from the get-go. This means that no matter how good it’d be, it likely won’t be all that watched as it airs. But is it worth watching? And how good are the fansubs?
Yes, and good enough, to answer your questions. There are “good enough” fansubs releasing a day or two after the episode airs, but if like me you’d rather wait for the good subs, you’re going to stay a week behind. Which is what I’m doing, even if sadly, it means this show isn’t going to be properly represented in discussions, or on the Anime Blogosphere’s Anime Power Ranking (which is showing signs of life once more!).
As to the show itself, I’m not fond of the CGI, and there’s definitely a case of “same-face” between it and Sidonia, but the show is quite solid. The premiere in particular was very good, very deftly handled, and is just a step behind Rakugo Shinju and BokuMachi’s master premieres. The 2nd episode wasn’t nearly as good, where it was mostly standard procedural detective/horror fare, and felt like it could’ve been slightly shorter, but it did work in setting up some of the other characters involved, and the encroaching horror.
But, if you care for horror stories of the sort manga often get, with a focus on “What it means to be human, and who are the real monsters?” then Ajin looks very promising indeed. Its use of soundtrack is also sublime and elevates the show in most scenes, and even in a season with Yuki Kaijura in BokuMachi, and Rakugo Shinju and Lupin both delivering nice jazzy tunes, this show’s use of its soundtrack is miles ahead of anything else currently airing.
5) Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Episode 4:
You can read my post-episode thoughts on the episode here. I speak of such things such as the show taking care to frame the goblins exactly using Manato’s terms, that a party is all about covering one another’s weaknesses. So of course, fans of the source material were quick to tell me how the original differed – in the original material, the goblins didn’t work like a party in this manner, and moreover, in the original, at least according to said fans’ read, what happened in this episode wasn’t something that happened, a tragedy, but something for which the party as a whole, and Manato in particular, were to blame. Having to blame someone like that feels like a pretty juvenile way to engage with one’s media. On both these counts, I feel as if the anime had done a superior job compared to its source material. Adaptations can elevate the material, don’t forget that.
Anyway, as always with this show, my feelings and take-away are the same: Good content. These people and their discussions feel like how real people would speak, but while that makes it realistic, and a solid drama, it actually harms it as a story, not only as a piece of entertainment. Pacing and focus are the biggest things stories can do that real life lacks until it is retold and thus transformed into a story, but this show is so very slow. So, as always, I trust the characters will react to this episode’s events in a manner that is believeable and makes for a good drama, but I’m not sure it’d make for an interesting story. As always, the question is where will they go with it.
The answer we have thus far is, that wherever they’d go, they’ll do so slowly.
6) Active Raid Episode 4:
There’s not that much to talk about here. This was a pretty standard “(mecha) cop drama”, with the two cops who don’t get along, and how they do join forces when it matters, and more scheming from our “villain”, while politicians and bureaucrats continue to blame our hard-working policemen for no fault of their own while they hide information and risk civilians. In other words, the standard for these shows, without standing out in any shape or form.
7) Dimension W Episode 4:
The horror nightmare scene was good. The lighting, the colours… but it was mostly about composition. The problem with this episode was exemplified with the other notable scene, which was a long and protracted scene of Mira in the shower. The problem here is that this is tied to what I said of Phantom World back in the 2nd week – the problem wasn’t with the scene itself, but that by and large, this was the only scene in the last couple of weeks of this show where things felt energetic and vibrant, as if the people creating the show actually cared for it. This scene, and the introduction of Goth-Loli blond vampire drove home that aside from constantly painting just how cute Mira is, this show hasn’t really been doing anything lately.
That this episode’s case and situation are neither interesting nor introduced in a suitably clear manner, so you either don’t understand or don’t care for what you understand, isn’t helping much. This show is on shaky grounds. It’s not about the fanservice itself, which was better than most shows’, but the fact that this is what the show seems to care about, and that’s not nearly good enough for me.
8) Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! / Give Blessings to This Wonderful World! Episode 3:
So, this is how I am repaid, after saying last week that KonoSuba might not excite me, but it’s a solid enough comedy? This episode was concentrated rubbish. Bottom of the barrel anime material. This episode had panty jokes, girls covered in slime jokes, and that was fine. This isn’t just “anime being anime” which you sort of have to accept when you watch anime, especially of the Light Novel adaptation and/or comedy varieties, which KonoSuba is on both counts, but these gags weren’t too obtrusive, and followed some of the show’s logic and humor up to now, such as “Maxed out luck stat”, and luck governing what he steals, so he gets the panties.
Anyway, the real problem was Darkness. We got a new character whose shtick was she derives sexual pleasure from being hurt. She’s a masochistic tank. Does it sound like something a 6th grader would come up with as a really funny character concept in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign? Does it sound like the sort of humor that kids in grade school would keep sniggering about? Sure does, and it sure isn’t funny. While it can be clever, to have more than half an episode rely on it was bad.
And while the first two gags were sort of fine, this episode ended up being nothing but one long and never-ending sequence of sexual innuendo that isn’t subtle, nor funny. The one hope I have is that now that Darkness’s introductory episode is done we’ll just get a gag or two out of her each episode where I’ll roll my eyes and ignore it, as I did with Log Horizon’s Tetra in the 2nd season. But this episode was so shit that this episode is on notice, and if today’s episode isn’t, not merely tolerable, but good, then I’m dropping this show.
Overall Thoughts on the Week: The top 3 shows are pure joy for me every week, Grimgar is pretty good, even if its “enjoyment factor” isn’t all too high, and Ajin came out roaring, and seems very promising indeed. The last four shows on this list though are falling farther and farther behind. Active Raid and Dimension W aren’t actually doing anything with the time they’re given, they’re not advancing our understanding of the characters much, or the plot, and they’re not all that fun. It’s pretty standard fare for shows to actually be pretty episodic and semi-empty for their first halves and kick into gear later on, and since Active Raid is already confirmed as split-cour, that may very well be the deal there.
But, it’s different when you watch a show weekly without deriving much pleasure from its episodes, to when you can blast through them quickly, especially when you know the second half is better. But these shows aren’t really fun, or all that interesting. They’re not bad, but since I’ve been saying I’m going to cut shows that will only amount to “average at best,” these shows are on notice. And KonoSuba… that was just terrible.
Dear readers, any particular thoughts on this past week’s crop of episodes, or on my thoughts on them?