Still not caught up on Ajin, and I can’t help but eagerly look forward for next season’s crop of exciting new shows (and exciting disappointments!), but we’ve still got Spring season’s last few hanging-on shows to take a look at, so let’s do that.
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) Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Episode 11:
The human drama train keeps going on. This means that things are sort of “inevitable”, to a degree. Such as Miyokichi and Shin’s marriage, which was designed to run away from their problems, and run away from Bon, and the Rakugo Association, and being turned down, didn’t turn out well for them. Because no matter where they went, they still took themselves along, and neither of them is a person who can actually handle life on their own, let alone while also taking care for another damaged individual such as themselves. And it probably doesn’t help that both of them might very well suffer from depression, and Shin almost definitely, having lost his reason to live and care – his rakugo, with a partner who maligns it even more.
And into this “healthy” situation comes Bon, selfishly trying to get his beloved brother, Shin-chan, to get back on his feet, and do rakugo again. For himself. For himself here meaning he wants Shin to do it for his sake, ‘his’ being Bon, but also for his own sake, ‘his own’ referring to Shin here. Selfishness is what led everyone down the path to ruin in this show, as is the case in most human stories, and why hubris is such a recurring theme. But here selfishness can also heal people, get them motivated about life again. Bon is trying to infuse Shin with what he’s always had more than others, an appetite for life and experiences, and in so doing he’ll revitalize him, and regain his beloved brother and rakugo performer, so he won’t be alone again. And it’d also help the child of the woman he loved, and of the man he loves.
Of course, so much selfishness means things will move forward, but we know they kept going far past the point of no return, because this is how tragedies are constructed. This episode had some relaxed times, and funny times. But the knowledge of impending doom, combined with the dilapidation and despair served as a grim specter hanging over the cast’s head. Also, keeping Konatsu’s adult actress for her child’s voice acting was a poor choice, as she sounds nothing like a young girl. A good episode, but it didn’t do much for me emotionally, though it did when we’ve come across Miyokichi crying in the end. Not connecting emotionally is the show’s biggest failure for me – I can appreciate it as great, but I’m not emotionally invested. Ishida Akira isn’t that good of a voice actor, and I’ll assign much of the blame to him. Emotional resonance is his weakest part as well.
2) Akagami no Shirayuki-hime / Snow White with the Red Hair Episode 23 (S2 episode 11):
Last week’s Akagami episode was the best the show had been in a long while, and was in fact my favourite episode of the week (and for purposes of the communal Anime Power Ranking ballot, even beat out Rakugo Shinju’s 11th episode). This week’s episode was just shy of it, because while it was even funnier than last week’s, it did lack most of the heart-warming moments that episode contained.
In terms of plot, the hilarity was clearly intended both in-show and out-of-show, as apparently the heart-warming last line by Izana in last week’s episode actually had a more foreboding translation, which this episode opened with. So Zen and Shirayuki might have a future together, if they manage to convince Izana. So rather than dwell on that, all morose and gloomy, the show did Zen and us a service by giving us a series of jokes based off of character personality comedy. The fact that the humor landed shouldn’t be more surprising, because the premise wasn’t all that crazy, the premise was “Let’s take a character, and just make him more of himself!” Everything he is, cranked up a wee bit. No personality changes, just highlighting the humor already inherent in said character’s actions, personality, and interactions with others.
And the rest of the cast just played straight man or literally pointed at the jokes while laughing. It was a good time. And next week, judging by the preview, it’d be back down to the serious matter, as befits the season finale. I’m ready.
3) Boku dake ga Inai Machi / ERASED Episode 11:
This was a pretty good episode! I liked that they had Satoru “time-travel” via a coma that lasted for 15 years. And the way they kept cranking up the tension of his absence until we’ve finally seen his form on the bed was really well-done. Director Itou Tomohiko, and probably the mangaka as well deserve some credit for that, most certainly.
And then we’ve had a series of encounters, with Satoru’s inner voice being the child’s, cause now he’s clearly a child in an adult’s body. So he once more bonds with a little girl who’s feeling all alone and cheers her up. And the tension mounts once more with Yashiro back on the scene. But the clear highlight of the episode is the opening act after the OP, with his mother’s forlorn life without her son, and then as we see how she’s taking care of him. A series of vignettes is a good way to look at this episode, a series of vignettes about life without Satoru, as seeing his old friends and what came of them, and what came of his help to them, was the sort of closure the show always needed, which I wondered how it’d incorporate without it feeling artificial about us finding said information.
The thematic content mostly lay in the realm of Satoru accepting his mother’s wish for him to not remember, for his own good, which is exactly the sort of thing that led to his past closure from the outside world, but as the episode drew to an end, alongside the cliffhanger, he once more reached for his old memories, and for his willingness and drive to act, which might be to his detriment in the very near future. Good directing, mostly good content. A solid episode.
4) Hai to Gensou no Grimgar / Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Episode 11:
This is a light novel adaptation, so when I thought they’re going to leave Ranta behind to die (which would’ve fit the episode’s theme, more on this in a bit), I thought to myself, “So this is how you turn a 4-boys 2-girls show into a male-directed harem! You keep killing the boys and replacing them with more girls! And Moguzo might as well be a eunuch,” but it seems we’re going back for Private Ranta ;-)
So, what was this episode about? Why, the same thing most of the show’s episodes have been about – dealing with loss, and dealing with our pasts. Here it was all about finally putting the past to rest and being able to grow past it, which was done with the help of Mary’s zombified friends, put to rest so they could haunt her no more, with her telling them she won’t forget them, and an image of forgiveness as she banished the last one. The characters all spoke of how they wish to grow, and all of them aside from Haruhiro spoke about “skills”, an external thing, rather than bettering their person on a more fundamental level.
Seeing the episode resolved around accepting weakness and learning to put the past behind you, and its sacrifices, I thought maybe we’d also put Ranta behind us, after he sacrificed himself for Haruhiro. But I guess that’d lose out on the determination to do better, to actually make up for the mistakes of the past. Going back in, and getting back out again.
Last) Dimension W Episode 11:
Here are some lines from the last episode of Dimension W: “You stole the power of God from me and then disappeared!” “No matter what body you’re in, you’re you, and no one can deny it.” “Possibility cannot be observed,” and “I believe the mystery of life is hidden in that.” So, the episode is filled to the brim with portentous and “awesome” lines, that are undermined by the fact the show’s spectacle is anything but spectacular, and that there’s not a single character or event in this string of episodes that I care about even remotely.
It’s not helping that it feels as if the show has no idea what it’s doing. I’m not sure what’s going on. No, not from a plot perspective, the cackling mad scientists and nonsense teleporters gone wrong is easy enough to follow. But remember Salva, a war-agitating, little-brother-using, sexually-shaming asshole? Well, turns out that he’s actually very caring of his little brother, and now it seems as if he’s supposed to be seen as a good guy? It could be priming for a double-cross, but the way the show presented his about-face and ignored the war he’s apparently trying to lead to felt quite weird. Also you know how last episode had Kyouma fight against a former ally’s mind-controlled body, because fighting against your former allies, and overcoming your past is a thing? Well, the show can’t be done with it after a single time, so this episode ended with apparently Loser having to fight his wife. Cause it worked so well once, so let’s just repeat the same struggle again!
It’s just nonsense, with some action, a lot of talking, a lot of cackling, with set pieces we don’t care for. It’s getting worse as I keep going, because it’s longer and longer I’m watching without caring. But the show doesn’t really give you anything to care about. Weird stuff.
Overall Thoughts on the Week: Rakugo Shinju and Grimgar are similar shows in that they give us very consistent performances. Neither does a lot for me emotionally, but they also differ in that there’s a lot actually happening in Rakugo Shinju, with characters changing their outlooks and positions in life each episode, with much suffering to be had. The pace is more than brisk, and the drama is mounting up. Grimgar is very consistently slow. At this point it’s beyond “relaxed”, when each “sentence” is stretched to a paragraph, and each paragraph to a write-up. It’s not bad, but it’s also not exciting, as when you go into each episode you know more or less just what you’re going to get out of it. Well, this episode’s finale was a breath fresh of adrenaline, but the scaffolding is in place, and it as much traps as supports the show. It’s good, but there’s little more to say of it.
Dimension W is also a very consistent show. Consistently bad. But the ways in which it is bad, beyond its lack of excitement or good art, are varied. It surprises me how my impression of the show keeps sinking each episode. And it does. Every single week. I guess this is my reward for continuing past the dam arc which was pretty damning.
Anyway, BokuMachi isn’t always even, but this week, while not a highlight episode, contained some highlight sequences and was better than last week’s episode, and Akagami has been on a string of good and enjoyable episodes ever since we left the middling kidnapping arc behind, and is giving me exactly what I was hoping for this season, for which I am thankful.
Dear readers, any particular thoughts on this past week’s crop of episodes, or on my thoughts on them?