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 Episode 8:
This episode was so cute, and comfortable, and sweet. Since the best word to describe this show is “fraught”, seeing how there’s a sense of fighting against the inevitability of Kayo and Satoru’s mothers’ fates, this sweet respite from cliffhangers and tension only promises what is to come will hit us even harder. It feels as if the show had allowed us to catch our breath, a risky business in a fast-paced thriller, but it’s only done so so we could scream from now on until the series concludes.
Continuing last week’s thematic discussion, Satoru keeps going for the temporary reprieves, such as the show offered us watchers this week. He keeps being content with how he managed to save Kayo up to now, but the show keeps reminding us and him that the killer is still out there, and that things aren’t done just yet. It is exactly Satoru’s wish to be a hero and his complacency over his “success” that seem they’d bring it all down on him.
“Bitter-sweet” is thus the takeaway from this episode, as even all of Kayo’s sweet moments came to be so sweet because they’ve been carefully contrasted with all of her hardships up to now – in this timeline, and in the previous ones.
Tied 1) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 8:
Usually, when someone says of an episode that it feels as if it were 3 episodes compressed into one, it comes off as a criticism, that things have not been given the time they need to breathe. Not so the case here. While this episode was so incredibly dense, it felt more as if the show found a way to fold time, and make half a movie’s worth of content fit within slightly more than 20 minutes of runtime. We’ve had reflections and mirroring between Sukeroku and his daughter, Sukeroku and Yatoru, Sukeroku and Miyokichi, Miyokichi and Yakumo… and they all interacted in ways that spoke of closeness, of being close, or trying to not be.
But thematically, if I had to choose? This was the beginning of the fall, this was tragedy’s birth. This is where Yakumo allowed himself to admit his dreams, and so he let go of what he already had so he will not regret it if it were to stop him from achieving his dreams. But the final mirroring, the weight given to his master’s words and body-language, and as we know from the first episode – you can’t escape regrets. He left things behind, and he was oh so naive. Again, this episode covered a lot of ground, so I highly recommend reading my write-up about it.
3) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episode 20 (S2 episode 8):
Well, this episode definitely went in both the directions I worried about last week – after Shirayuki was done with Raj, who introduced a “Maybe Shirayuki will choose to not go back to be with Zen?” plot-line, she was kidnapped, to be away from Zen, and now she was presented with her father, so maybe she won’t go back home with Zen? But she did. And then we had Obi’s “I failed you” bit, where I actually thought the show was going to resolve his growing feelings for Shirayuki (he even said her name for the first time!) by leaving him behind, but the show dealt with that too. Thankfully, the show just had Shirayuki put her foot down on both fronts and say, “I’m going home with Zen! And Obi’s still my friend,” but it was still a bit annoying we had to go there.
The other half of this episode was much more pleasant, with Shirayuki’s father pranking Zen, and Zen and Shirayuki hugging and everything. Very sweet and comfy, and I chuckled and smiled and enjoyed it.
But, Rona, Raj’s sister, put who this show is aimed at quite well, when she more or less said, “I don’t understand them, isn’t it romantic?” – Zen and Shirayuki hugged without looking at one another, and he went into her room, and all they did was sit next to one another. And then when Shirayuki was asleep, he kissed her deeply. More than this show is romantic, it’s aimed at people who can go, “Awww, isn’t it so romantic?!” – which feeds into my overall impressions of the show: It’s very comfy, but it’s not actually all that well-written, or good. It’s comfort food.
And thankfully, after a weaker first half, it seems we’re back to comfy-land.
4) Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Episode 8:
This episode of Grimgar was very ambitious, but sadly its production values couldn’t keep up with all that it had tried to do. It opened with several parallax movements of various backgrounds elements, nearly concluded with a lengthy rotation while the bunch were paying their respects in the cemetery, and had numerous well-designed and directed action sequences in the ruins, more than a few in continuous lengthy shots, but it all felt a bit slow, or not quite done, in terms of animation (and character designs have been a tad off-model at times for a while now). This episode feels as if it could’ve been amazing, had it looked like the highlights from shows such as Sword Art Online, or One Punch Man, but it didn’t look that good, and that it kept shooting so high only made the failure to reach these heights more noticeable.
But, the fight sequences were well-designed, and more than that, they carried their usual weight – the goblins appeared to be quite human, very human in fact, trying to save one another, playing chess and cards during their downtime. And then our “heroes” came and had their revenge. “Sorry, but it’s kill or be killed,” said Ranta, except this wasn’t, this was revenge against those who didn’t risk them at the time.
The scenes involving Manato and his memory were slow and well-done. The scenes involving Haruhiro and Mary felt needlessly slow. It’s a fine line to walk, and you can’t always land on the right side. But the show is a good one. Slow and steady, careful and introspective. A shame its production wasn’t up to its director’s vision, but we can’t have it all, I guess.
Also, I now think that one day it’d be revealed in the series that the goblins are people from our world as well – some people end up as Volunteer Soldiers, and some end as goblins.
5) Dimension W Episode 8:
Dimension W has given us a pretty competent action adventure sort of episode, the sort that could’ve been a solid segment 20 minutes into an action movie, or one that arrives midway through one. But this episode had way too many characters running around that we don’t really care for, and who are likely going to be removed from the series pretty soon. So, we don’t care for these characters, and if we somehow do by the time the show’s done with them (and it’s not really presenting them as anything with substance either), then it’ll be time wasted as they’ll then go away.
Loser spoke like a character expositioning to the watchers rather than to his own child/aide when discussing Ground Zero, Mira had a moment of presenting her rear end to the screen, and Kyouma had someone else exclaiming over how cool he is. Business as per usual. There was one bit that seemed to rely on last episode, where Kyouma went “Damn, get a hold on yourself!”, which made sense considering what has been revealed last episode, but it’s incongruous with how he’s been acting up to now, and the acting on the voice-actor front also didn’t sell it.
So the Sob Story reveal episode came and went, and I still don’t care for Kyouma. This is pretty much an empty popcorn experience at this point. I could drop it, but I guess I’ll finish it if I’ve gotten this far. At least the level of popcorn improved a tad.
6) Ajin Episode 6:
I don’t know what happened this episode of Ajin, but it was a mess. It wasn’t well-written, or competently directed, or well-acted. I don’t even know what they were going for with some of it. Yes, they wanted to show us that Kei doesn’t behave like a normal person, and rather than knowing how a normal person acts, he acts the part – thus the mantra of “becoming a fine human”, to keep him out of trouble. But the “Heh, I shot you, hehe…” with Satou was a bit much. It was as if someone paused reality and just… weird.
Then we had the doctor who needed Kei to save his life but kept denigrating him even so, which then the show killed because it wanted to make an example out of him, how one that doesn’t show humanity nor trust others isn’t worthy of surviving.
It was all just “Wha? Why?!” Even for a character whom they’re trying to show us isn’t normal, the quality of writing and the depiction of Kei (whose thought-process we’ve been privy to before), it all seemed as if I’ve suddenly started watching a different show.
Overall Thoughts on the Week: Ajin had its worst episode yet. BokuMachi and Rakugo Shinju had some of their strongest content thus far (episodes 2-3 of BokuMachi and the Rakugo Shinju double-premiere were better). So, how did all the other shows fare? Well, if I had to describe it in a single word, it’d be “reaching”, and if I had to use two, then I’d use “Falling short.”
Don’t get me wrong, those episodes weren’t bad. Dimension W gave us a capable but ultimately soulless action episode, which is about as much as we can expect from it at this point. Akagami spent a half paying for the sins of this arc up to now, and its second half finally took us back on the route to where the show shines its brightest. Grimgar had another solid episode, but it reached for greatness that eluded it on a purely technical standpoint, so it left a bit of a sour note, even if the interactions and the fighting had weight behind them, as this show always does.
So, it was a good week for anime, with two spectacular shows, and a bunch of shows that fell short of the greatness they aimed for, but it’s better to aim and fall short than aim straight for mediocrity, as Dimension W seems to be doing. And hopefully Ajin will pick up again, but wow. This was some bad stuff there.
Also, if you have to be able to settle #1 – I enjoy BokuMachi more, but think Rakugo Shinju is “better”.
Dear readers, any particular thoughts on this past week’s crop of episodes, or on my thoughts on them?