Have been busy lately, and had been preoccupied by a bunch of stuff (including the massive Spring 2016 Season Preview, check it out!), so this is a tad late, and I haven’t watched the last 3 Ajin episodes, so we’ll cover what I did watch. Can’t wait for the new season to arrive – gotta find some new shows to disappoint me until I’m left with but a handful!
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.
1) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episodes 9-10:
This show is good. Watch it. It’s a tragedy, where people pay for their past sins, and they pay for the past sins of their forebears. They pay for their hubris, for the goals they set out to achieve, and for being unable to put themselves in others positions. This is a story about hopes and dreams and people falling out even as they wish they could still cling to one another. It has beautiful set-pieces, and the visual design remains exquisite even as the models drop off-model with increasing frequency (but thankfully it’s not so common as to be actively detrimental to my enjoyment of the show and its visuals). There’s a lot to unpack here, from symbolism in word and deed, to symbolism in the visuals the show employs, to just how theatre-like the characters are in their off-stage interactions, where they act as if they’re symbolic manifestations to one another. Then again, in some ways they are.
Just read my lengthier write-ups. They’re already as short as I could make them, because I don’t have the time to write a 1.5-2k word editorial on each and every episode, and I could.
2) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episodes 21-22 (S2 episodes 9-10):
Episode 21 was good in that it’s given us some Obi time, fleshing him out, and getting to see him interact both with his current group of friends, and with an old acquaintance. In terms of “fun”, Obi’s definitely the most fun character in the cast, and the only one who’s allowed to really change. This point matters, because episode 21 actually has people say, “Shirayuki and Zen haven’t change, have they?” alongside with “They’re always so perfect,” essentially. Of course it’s false, and we see them both coming to terms with how things should go with one another, but the show is rewriting history, in that the characters aren’t changing. Episode 22 went on to say Mitsuhide hasn’t changed at all since Zen met him either.
I guess after how the prior arc sort of turned out badly, and how the big bugbear in it is the fear that Shirayuki will change (and thus leave Zen), the show retreated to the comfort of “Everything’s the same, and will not change. In fact, no one ever changed at all to begin with!” which is a bit silly, but considering what the show does best is give us comfort food, I guess it’s fine. Also, in case you don’t think it’s a lie, just note how Izana says Zen is now fun to talk to, because he did change.
Anyway, digression aside, Obi is the only one who is not only allowed to change, but whose changes are referred to directly. So he’s fun to watch on that front as well. Episode 22 was just funny, with multiple gag moments that were based on character personalities and the situations they themselves brought themselves into, married by funny faces, and it’s the most laughs an airing show has gotten out of me in over a year.
3) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episodes 9-10:
The last two episodes of BokuMachi mirror one another quite well. Episode 9’s first half tries to make something the show hasn’t earned work, and it fails. It relies on heightened drama, and while it is technically very well done, the missing heart is killing it. It also concluded the story-ending to Hinazuki Kayo’s arc, even if the emotional heart and ending was reached in the episode prior. The second half of the episode involves a cozy and comfortable ride in a car, which felt genuine, and warm, and brought a smile to my face.
Episode 10’s first half had disagreements, and friendly banter, and was warm and comfortable and worked overall well, but it was a bit fast-paced and not as effective as the final sequences of the previous episode, but it was fine, and also had some solid references to the show’s themes of super-heroes and childishness as reflected in Satoru’s actions and beliefs. Then we had the second half of the episode, which also involved a car ride, but this time it was here that the show faltered, relying on a villain. But, rather than having failed to earn the emotional weight of the scene, the show failed to deliver on its emotional impact, and also failed somewhat in its delivery. A show that had used heightened atmosphere via direction, visual design, and music up to now at the drop of the hat did indeed have tension rising up via visual design and direction, and some interesting effects, but the scene’s almost entire lack of music made what should’ve been a climax fall somewhat flat. And while the emotional content was earned, it didn’t really leave me emotional.
Episode 10 also ended on a weird spot for a “climax”, because it’s arrived two episodes before the show concludes, though it obviously can’t be “allowed” to be the true climax. No, neither of these episodes had been bad, but both of these episodes relied on scenes where the delivery failed, exactly as the show tried to convince us that these two scenes are of paramount importance, which is unfortunate.
4) Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Episodes 9-10:
This show could’ve ended #3, and well, it could’ve ended #2 as well, but the problem is that while it’s the most consistent of the three, it is the most consistent because it is also the least daring. BokuMachi’s plot goes in all sorts of places, and the show has all sorts of competing focuses. Akagami actually tried to be an action-adventure series with a plot-line for a while. Grimgar? It’s the same old. And it’s not that it’s just the same old (because from a “type of show” angle, so is Rakugo Shinju, it’s that it’s sparse.
The show really is giving us a very slow and well-considered exploration of group dynamics, and people interacting with one another, but it’s also somewhat failing with actually telling a story, not because it lacks a story, but because it keeps hammering about the same things for 40 minutes which it’s already covered before, multiple times. And Haruhiro audibly sighing in a shot that takes 10 seconds, or him staring at Mary before saying something, and then her staring at him before replying, and repeat, with 10 seconds between each sentence, are actually murdering the storytelling. Haruhiro sighing to himself is getting to be like “She scowled and crossed her arms beneath her breasts, tugging on her braid,” in the Wheel of Time books.
Do I feel like I’m watching real people? Mostly. Do I feel they still hit the “decrease speed” somewhat? Sure. This is very much because the show hasn’t been given enough content for the number of episodes it’s adapting, but the “realism” here comes at the expense of the story, because what allows us to construct a story rather than a random assortment of events is that we cut away the extraneous details, rather than drown in them. This is what separated the Lord of the Ring trilogy from The Hobbit’s. Grimgar’s too much like the latter.
Also, I like Ranta’s position. It’s not that I agree with him, but he’s forcing Haruhiro, and through him the audience, to actually look back and question their own positions, rather than just dismiss him as a jerk. Yes, he’s a jerk, but he’s still got points worth considering, and that he forces us to actually consider his position while remonstrating us over only looking at it through Haruhiro’s is valuable for actually dealing with others, which is the focus of the show. And yes, sometimes dealing with others also includes knowing when to let them go. And managing expectations, and differing expectations (“I want a party of friends!” versus “I want co-workers, nothing more”) is the lead cause of interpersonal conflict in every relationship.
Last) Dimension W Episodes 9-10:
Yes, technically this is the 5th show, but I don’t want you to think it’s “the fifth best currently airing anime show I’ve watched over the past two weeks,” because while it’s technically correct, that is all it is. The show is now facing the same sort of struggle it did back in the episodes 5-6 arc, where it introduced characters and hoped us to care for them and their sob-story background, and the uninspired action sequences they were in. Well, this arc has even more characters, and even more of them are given a sob story, and the action just doesn’t nail it. I should drop this show, but I’m sticking to it. The show doesn’t know how to make Mira significant without reducing her back to irrelevancy the very next scene, nor does it know how to have a serious moment without then having a funny image to follow it up and ruin the atmosphere. We’ve got expositions about Loser’s powers from the dude he’s fighting against, very nice ideas with terribly dull execution that’s overly maudlin on the nature of human hopes and aspirations, and the action is choppy in its direction, and unexciting.
Do I have any good words for the show? Well, everything it does feels uninspired and mediocre, but very little of it feels aggressively bad, which is something, I guess.
Overall Thoughts on the Week(s): The season is winding down, and I’m really waiting for the new crop of shows to be excited about. I really do need to catch up on Durarara!!, on which I haven’t made progress in a while, but sometimes life gets in the way. But even with shows that I’m generally happy with, sometimes you need something new, you know? I think this is one of the reasons I prefer marathons so much, because while there’s something to be said for returning to a show week in and week out as if it were a comfortable friend, most shows don’t create this atmosphere of “friendship” with you. So, marathoning allows me to get to know them and then move on.
So, this season is winding to a close, and the episodes I’ve watched were alright. Grimgar wasn’t exciting, but that’s sort of its thing, sadly. Akagami wasn’t exciting, but that’s sort of its thing, thankfully. Dimension W just sort of was there, while Rakugo Shinju was good in how it always is, and while the drama is always happening, I would’ve been ready for an explosion of drama, which hadn’t occurred yet. The tragedy is still before us. BokuMach, well, it wasn’t exciting in the right spot, and tried to be exciting where it shouldn’t have been. But the shows that made it this far into the season with me are good, overall, and even missteps are from the heights they’ve reached and/or promised up to now. So it goes, you do expect more from friends, don’t you?
Dear readers, any particular thoughts on these past two weeks’ crop of episodes, or on the season as it’s beginning to wind down??