Winter 2016 – Week 12 in Review

This week had some shows ending and others preparing to end. That’s basically it. I know it sounds boring, but that’s pretty much what happened, apparently. Thankfully, the body count wasn’t all that bad. I was kinda expecting some of the shows to simply blow themselves up, but there were also a couple others that ended so abruptly and without finesse that I couldn’t figure out whether or not I should be annoyed or amused. Anyway, I’m just glad the viewing list got knocked down a couple tiers. So let’s do this!

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Dimension W continued with its dull expository and ended in a way I guess it was meant to end — with flashes, explosions, and a peek at Mira’s boobs. There’s no point complaining about the bludgeoned plot or the new-age technobabble of what Dimension W is when it’s obvious that this show was mostly about the ride. It’s a shame, because stories like these could be embraced in spite of their shortcomings if its characters are compelling enough. Kyouma was anything but that. He was an asshole towards Mira ever since the beginning of the show, and their relationship only develops as an afterthought. This show really could have used another cour to develop itself better. Heck, Funimation was confident enough to actually sponsor its production, so you’d think it could have been possible. But what’s done is done, and after all that effort, it’s finally over.

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GATE ended its run with the successful extraction of Princess Pina and the former emperor, setting the stage for a civil war between Zolzal loyalists and the remnants of the former empire. This show has always had difficulty drawing the line between sound military actions and blatant acts of violence. This episode was no different, but it redeemed itself in the end by returning to the political strife that defines itself as a series. Apart from the unnecessary couple plugging at the end of the episode, the show ended on a reasonable note with little to complain.

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The final fight with Active Raid’s wackiest villain, Mythos, was actually more engaging that I thought it would be. The conditions placed on Unit 8 to defeat him was pretty tight, but they carried it out in typical Unit 8 fashion. Unlike the fight however, Mythos’ motives were revealed to be rather uninspiring and underwhelming. In addition, they framed the Student Council President as a bigger fish for the gang to catch, so that’s more reason to believe that this show will continue with its awkward super villain setups. To be honest, this show had a pretty grounded cast of characters who live in a political system that is obviously not working, but isn’t very different from our current situation. It was a clumsy little satire of a modern day workforce that sadly didn’t maintain its consistency throughout the season. But it’s getting a second cour, so there might still be hope for Unit 8 and that silly dancing Liko.

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At one point in time, HaruChika remembered that it was an anime about kids who play in a brass band, so it decided to end with their prepared piece. But before doing that, it also decided to do one last mystery, which was eventually dropped altogether. HaruChika had always been a confused piece of high school genre trying to be a mystery show, and it’s only saving grace was the dynamic between Haruta and Chika. Apart from that, there was hardly any focus on the band’s efforts at becoming any better as musicians. Because of that, I felt very little sympathy for them when they only got Bronze in the regional finals. In fact, a musical number at the end felt unnecessary since the show never positioned itself in that genre in the first place. The final icing on the cake was a deadpan joke at the very last moment of the show, leading me to believe that HaruChika was never about leaving any lasting impressions at all.

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BBK/BRNK set itself up as a prequel to Kaoruko’s Story” basically sums up this last episode. It had many great reveals — Reoko was “saved” from an imminent death by Migiwa at the expense of the current political set up — and the overarching conflicts between nations made a pretty strong statement. But in the end, it seemed like some kind of cheap trick to have Kaoruko state that the show was simply there to allow her own story to unfold. I won’t know the value of the actions of BBK/BRNK’s characters until after I see the sequel, which makes this show feel a little less than self-composed. Overall it was okay, but that last scene was just too unfair.

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There really wasn’t much to report in Dagashi Kashi land this week. It maintained the same understated comedic tone it usually has, except for a couple recycled jokes (boob ice cream, anyone?). There was some fun characterization with Yo-yo-daddy, and it was nice to see Coconuts having a “natural” conversation with Hotaru (according to her, Ramune was responsible for opening up the ports of Japan). This show has always been about how endearing its characters are with one another, so there never really is a joke that sticks out or throws you into a fit of laughter. It simply stuck to its formula this week, and that’s a good thing.

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ERASED ended in as graceful a manner as you’d expect it would. It was nice to see the show return to the underlying theme of trust when Kenya reciprocated the trust Satoru initially gave him when he first disclosed the existence of a killer. These actions underscored the importance of community — the fact that Satoru cannot defeat the enemy alone. Though the methods he picked are questionable (seriously, you’re gonna roll off the roof and expect the killer to save your life?), the triumph of belief and community in the end was a rewarding spectacle to see. The final scene with Airi once again proved the power of subtlety as Satoru’s face transformed from surprise, to sorrow, to delight, and finally to inspiration. It was a wonderful nod to the very first person who believed in him, which I believe was a perfect way to end the show.

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Grimgar remained stellar this week, ending gracefully with a hopeful message that encapsulates the shows theme on overcoming sorrow. It was a very rewarding experience watching its characters fight and grow and learn and empower one another. Grimgar was just another one of those “stuck in a fantasy game” type shows, but its focus on the harsh realities of such a situation and its implications drove home a poignant message on how we view ourselves and the actions we choose. To its characters, there are no save points or retries; every mistake may harm someone or even cost a life. And when that happens, there’s an underlying responsibility to rise above and become stronger from it. Grimgar is a beautiful show that celebrates the power of solidarity and triumph over adversity.

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And finally, Rakugo Shinjuu made its biggest reveal this week. After inviting Kikuhiko to her room, Miyokichi tries to force him to commit double-suicide with her only to be interrupted by a changed Sukeroku. His uncharacteristic rakugo performance apparently made him realize how much of a dick he was towards her, and so he begs for her to stay with him. And then the tragedy happened. The entire show was basically a tragedy waiting to happen, and seeing it finally unfold was a chilling experience. “I was abandoned again” said Kikuhiko; a heartfelt sorrow made tangible with a solo violin and a beautifully framed shot of Sukeroku and Miyokichi falling towards the underworld. Rakugo Shinjuu has made no waste of each of its episodes. Its character beats and themes all culminate to this one scene and then vanish, leaving behind loneliness and sorrow so palpable, you can’t help but sympathize with Kikuhiko. Truly an unforgettable scene.

 

And there you have it. This week was pretty unremarkable, but the last few shows in this listing actually did what they set out to achieve. I’m aware ERASED has been subject to a mixed set of reactions, which I personally felt too at one point. But after all is said and done, it redeemed itself to the point where it had its dignity intact.

There are still a couple more shows left this season, but Spring is already in the air. The lesson learned here, now that I’m writing a blog, is that I need to cut down on the number of shows I’ll be watching in a season. It’s pretty obvious that there are some shows in this list that could have been dropped sooner, but I’ve had the habit of watching shows to the end, regardless of how badly they’ve hurt me. But now I need to be a little more efficient with my time, so the 14-some titles in the preview list will definitely need to be trimmed down.

Until next week!

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