I’ve barely got any shows to bring up this time around, as I’ve dropped most, and Ajin didn’t get the subs I’m waiting for yet this week. I guess I’ll cheat a bit, and even though the main focus would be week 7’s episodes, I’ll throw a few words about last week’s episodes as well, where relevant.
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). Though it might be a bit more “tier”-sorted this time, as I’ve got some ties I don’t want to pick between.
Tied 1) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episodes 6-7:
After episode 5 hadn’t been as good at maintaining the tension that this show lives off of, in part because its direction felt relatively flat, certainly compared to the heights of the first 4 episodes, episode 6 was much better, though not as good as episodes 2-4, and episode 7 was a true return to strength. It coincided, though perhaps not by coincidence, with the return to the past – as Kayo, and her fate, feel much more tense than anything that happens in the present.
In the present, we don’t know what will happen, and whatever does happen has a chance of being erased should Satoru succeed in changing the past. Not so in the past, where the phantom of death hovers in a very specific manner, a very close manner. The nature of the danger also ties really well into the direction, and also vice versa, as the direction heightens the sense of foreboding, and us knowing that things ride on the edge also means we’re more receptive to the smallest shifts in suspicion, via direction and lighting and pacing.
Episode 6 also continued episode 5’s theme of trust by extending it even further, while episode 7 took the question of trust, and how Satoru isn’t really an adult, and mixed these all with notions of heroism. A sweet and innocent dream, a lie of naivete, as Satoru went beyond the chart of the past he held, without making concrete plans for how he’ll actually resolve the situation. So now Satoru is flying by the edge of his seat, and we don’t know what will happen or when. On one hand, that could heighten the impact of any cliffhanger, as now anything could happen, but on the other hand, it loses some of the tension of the predetermined fate.
Still, there’s no other show right now, or for quite some time, that made me wish I could watch the next episode so soon as much as this show.
Tied 1) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episodes 6-7:
Rakugo Shinju is consistently very, very good. It might very well be “better” than BokuMachi, but I enjoy it less – I still enjoy it a lot, but there’s no demand that I keep watching it immediately as is the case with that show. And so, these two very good shows share the top spot.
Now, the last two episodes of Rakugo Shinju had been quite different. Episode 6 revolved around Bon finally acting out the choice for performing rakugo, of doing it because he wants to (and because of the affirmation he received in episode 5 in his performance), and so he opened himself up, he gave himself to rakugo, and to his audience. The performance in episode 6 revolved around a woman who only chose a man to commit suicide with because she had no one better, and that was how Bon was, he only did rakugo because he saw himself as having no other choice, and his audience felt he didn’t really care for it or for them, and so they didn’t care for him either.
Episode 7 was much more reliant on beautiful colouring and lighting, which heightened not Bon’s inner conflicts and attachments to others, but his interpersonal relationships, and chiefly with Miyokichi. If before episode 6 Bon had no room inside him for anything but himself, then it ended with him having no room for anything but rakugo, and so he casts Miyokichi aside, as if he was only with her because he had no other options as well. But is this true? He turned to rakugo over missing the master and Shin before, and he knows how it is to be abandoned.
Time will tell, in this drama heading towards a tragedy.
3) Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Episodes 6-7:
Poor Ranta. Nobody wanted to be in a party with him, and he must keep risking his life to make do in a world that is not his own. Poor Ranta, he had someone to depend on, and then that person died. Poor Ranta, is it any surprise he lashes out at others, to hide, even from himself, how much he despairs, of having to risk his life as he charges the enemies with relatively light armour, and must fight back his self-revulsion over his profession’s demand for grisly trophies?
We can all understand that things are indeed hard for “poor Ranta”, but he’s still a jerk. So when he spouts his “Yeah, well, why should I make an effort for her sake if she won’t make an effort for my sake?!” spiel about Mary, there’s a real tendency to write it off as him being a jerk, but even if he’s a jerk, he’s also right. And more than that, if you think Ranta is a jerk in this scene, then, as he correctly points out, then so is Mary, who’s not making an effort to get to know them or get along with them either. She’s got a sob-story, which they know, which they understand, but it doesn’t make it fine, it doesn’t mean if you had a sad thing happen to you, everything you do from now on is excused, right?
But this sort of mindset by Ranta is how you end up alone, and the best way to have a relationship fall apart. In an ideal situation both sides would reach out to the other, but the moment you think, “They didn’t bother, so why would I?” then you’ve already given up on the relationship. Ranta is a jerk, but the rest of the party don’t wait for him to apologize or tell them how he feels, they smack him a bit, tell him how they feel, and move on. And now they’re doing the same with Mary – not because she deserves this effort from them, or because she is guaranteed to reciprocate it, but because they want to make it work, and if she won’t make the first step, they will. Because that’s what friends do.
And because they do understand her, and even if it’s not “right” for them to always be the ones to make the conciliatory moves, they don’t care for being right as much as they care for being together, and making friends. And yes, they also need her. Haruhiro’s night-time “chats” with the ghost of Manato also serve as a nice continuation of the loneliness he feels, alone at the head of the party, having to lead not by demands, but by self-sacrifice, which gives him much better insight into Manato.
4) Ajin Episodes 4-5:
Episode 5 surprised me, though in retrospect it should’ve been obvious – I thought Satou was going to torture Kei and blame it on the humans, but instead he left him to the humans, because he knew how they’d treat him, and he knew it’d be earned. But this fits with the theme the show keeps going for, which is how the humans act, and even the “mercy” Shimomura is shown by Tosaki is just so he could make use of her, and keep her as his own weapon, or so it seems.
There were visceral moments in these two episodes, and the fights were alright as well. Nothing extraordinary though, but solid horror-thriller, for a segment that must come. Seems next episode will focus on the action, so we’ll see how it fares when and if we go for more psychological horror again.
Tied 5) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episodes 18-19 (S2 episodes 6-7):
I figured it out. I figured out why Umihebi, the pirate boss who kidnapped Shirayuki (for the second time) bugs me. Her design, how loud she speaks, and her actions: All of it. She’s a character out of a shounen series. I could imagine her, voice acting, visual design, and actions, in Fairy Tail, or Magi, or One Piece. But she just doesn’t work here, as she clashes with the sensibilities of the rest of the cast. It’s as if someone dropped Yuno from Mirai Nikki into Dora the Explorer. The action in episode 6 was solid, but the action in episode 7 was pretty lackluster, in terms of animation and fluidity of action, and was mostly static and/or unexciting shots.
The way the episode ended really made me raise my eyebrows, but I don’t like it from a structural position – Shirayuki just finished an arc where she was given an option to choose to not go back to Zen, where she had to consider what her “home” really is, who she’d want to be with. And the moment the arc concludes with Shirayuki and Zen embracing once more, the show turns around and introduces, immediately, another person and place Shirayuki might want to stay with and not go back with Zen, because it’s “home”.
The story has always been Shirayuki-hime’s weakest point, so it makes sense that when the author came up with a “conflict”, he’d use it again, but I’d have thought there’d be something else in between. Regardless, Shirayuki and Zen’s moments, Obi’s anger, Kiki and Mitsuhide’s swordfighting – whenever the show focuses on the small and “comfy” moments, it does well. Yes, we also had Raj grow into his princely role, because the show has always been somewhat moralistic and very optimistic. It too was a comfy thing.
So, enjoyed the episodes, but the story really fell flat, and Umihebi’s inclusion added insult to injury, and just made it feel wrong.
Tied 5) Dimension W Episodes 6-7:
The “Tied 5” is mostly about episode 7. Episode 6 had a cute boy who was like another Mira who treated Kyouma like a surrogate mother, and who was all into cool Japanese ninja-samurai! Yeah… And we’ve had a crazy Gundam-esque African war-mongering prince, whose aide is treated in a manner that continues the show’s fixation on sexual domination of its females in terms of poses and sounds… yeah. And yet, it somehow made me curious enough about Kyouma’s history reveal, and managed to get me to watch yet another episode.
So, how was episode 7? It was the best episode the show had since episode 2. Now, it’s not an amazingly hard challenge, and Kyouma’s history isn’t all that interesting (he’s basically a Heiwajima Shizuo clone who’s also a Gears of War soldier with a dead wife), but Dimension W is good at one thing thus far, and that’s giving us cute tiny girls and women, and while I didn’t get emotional and the themes in Kyouma’s backstory were quite heavy-handed (such as his late wife’s love of old-fashioned things, and then the symbol of their love breaking to signify her falling ill), it was still cute!
Then the flashback ended, and we’re back to the present, with an introduction of various quirky Collectors, and evil machinations, and war, and a plane that falls off the air on the way to the remote island, and I wasn’t really interested again. But they got Loser in the thick of things again, and against my better judgement it seems as if I’ll be watching the next episode as well.
This really is popcorn. You eat and eat and eat it, and then you feel bloated and sad, but all the salt does things to your brain and you can’t stop. Well, at least it’s not terrible. But some parts of it are. It’s sort of weird how almost nothing introduced in episode 6 actually had any relevant in episode 7. But since episode 6 was pretty bad, it’s for the better. And we’ll probably get it all back next week anyway – the small japanophile robot ninja prince, and the sexually dominated robot (cyborg?) aide, and the super crappy would-be-villain prince.
Overall Thoughts on the Week(s): I usually find myself saying “As per usual, most shows were more of themselves” at this point, but this time around it only applies to about half the shows? And thankfully, most shows are being better now, over the past two weeks, than they’d been three episodes ago. BokuMachi picked up from its weakest episode in episode 5, and by episode 7 fully recovered its momentum. Dimension W isn’t great, and it’s not likely it’ll ever be great, but it’s certainly far better than the lows of the haunted mansion arc, even if it still relies on turning its female characters, human and otherwise, into cute and/or sexy props, or Sad Backstory reasons. But, it’s recovered some even so.
Grimgar keeps trucking on, and so does Ajin, both keep portraying and leading us to the logical conclusions of the worlds they are in. On that note, Rakugo Shinju keeps drawing us to an inevitable tragedy, and it does so in a picturesque manner that is still fairly realistic and relatable. The other fairy-tale story is the only show which has been doing worse as the season progresses, but hopefully soon we’ll all be back in Tanbarun, without a story, forget I ever suggested this story aim for plot, just give us the fuzzies again.
Dear readers, any particular thoughts on these past two weeks’ crop of episodes, or on my thoughts on them?