Spring 2016 – Week 5 in Review

This wasn’t one of the strongest weeks for spring, which is quite surprising given the shows have actually been doing fairly well. In fact, this season has turned out to be one of the better seasons as of late. At the start, there weren’t even any signs that the season’s offerings would do as good as they are doing now — that and the fact that genre spread is quite diverse. It’s going to be interesting looking at how these shows will fare in the mid-season review, which is — wow, next week? Holy crap, time flies when you’re having too much fun.

And fun we shall have! Here’s this week’s week in review! (NB: I might not have mentioned it before, but I’m starting to order the shows in this list based on my overall impression for the week, meaning the best shows appear first, and the not so good shows round up the end. Anyway, enjoy!)

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My Hero Academia

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People have been complaining about the pacing of this show, which is understandable if you’re an avid follower of the manga. To be honest, I don’t watch that many shounen titles so this “snail’s pace” progression is actually quite new to me. Heck, I tried watching Ushio to Tora a few seasons back and recalled not really getting into it because of its shounen feel. But it’s something I’m working on. I’ll admit that it’s kind of pretentiousness on my part, because I know for a fact that titles like One Piece and Naruto are quite good, albeit bludgeoned by fillers. But I digress. My Hero Academia, apart from its pacing issues, was pretty solid this week. It remained consistent in developing Midoriya (okay, people call him “Deku” so starting next week, I’ll do that too) and his own brand of heroism. Where he lacked control and mastery over All for One, he showed commitment and resolve. It’s triumph after triumph for Midoriya, so all that’s left now is to see all of this development play out in an actual conflict.

 

Flying Witch

I think it’s pretty clear at this point on what the primary focus of Flying Witch is: discovering magic in everyday life. This particular episode was as laid back as you could imagine having no new characters on display (which is surprising, because there appear to be a couple more faces from the OP that have yet to make their appearance). Instead, it opted to depict a lazy Sunday morning spent following a cat through the city as mirrored by  both Chinatsu and Makoto. Through most of the scenes, Chinatsu was dismissing obviously dubious things like a ghostly face on a wooden plank as mundane; instead finding more delight in cherry blossom petals and idle talk with a local. But when Makoto goes though the same route as Chinatsu did earlier, we realize that these things Chinatsu saw were actually even more mundane than she made them out to be. There were other nice hints to that “finding magic in everyday life” theme, such as when Makoto was sifting through her things only to wind up relishing in nostalgia over old trinkets. Her silliness was made even more endearing when she discovered a pot of pickles that she completely forgot about. Even the part with the old lady appearing before both Chinatsu and Makoto in different ways shows the magic in connecting with others — of how small this world is when you think about it. These little moments of magic may be fleeting — like a petal that runs down the drain without you noticing — but that just means we need to slow down and take the time out to realize how magical life can really be. And as far as Flying Witch is concerned, there’s no need for magic potions or bursts of star light to make any of that happen.

 

Concrete Revolutio ~The Last Song~

It was pleasing to see the show start to re-orient itself with the established events from where the first season left off. This particular episode did well in filling in the blanks, as well as raising the tension between the different factions involved. It appears this is the tipping point of the ideologies that have, until now, teetered on the edges of tolerance to maintain a certain amount of peace and order. And that maintenance of peace by means of subjugation and control is what drives Hitoyoshi to action under the guise of justice. But justice is, of course, a frivolous statement. Daitetsu challenges Hitoyoshi’s pretentiousness by asking if his actions, under the guise of justice, make the Bureau evil. But Hitoyoshi has the inability to sever his own moral times from his actions, hence he grabs the bull by the horns. But then we see Kikko, who professes quite simply that she is not in agreement with the bureau, but believes that change can be enacted from within. Hitoyoshi acknowledges that Kikko matured — even more so than himself — able to maintain her sense of dignity in spite of the injustice occurring all around her.  But in the end, everything becomes a question of might — one’s brand of justice is only as strong as one’s resolve. A conflict, it seems, is sadly inevitable.

 

Macross Δ

There’s always a calm before the storm, and this episode was clearly that — characters mustering up their resolve before joining the war. But controversy surrounding Freyja’s Windermeran status only adds up to her own insecurities, to which Hayate says “f**k that” before grabbing her to go gallivanting on a jet ride. The show seems to place Hayate’s actions in a favorable light, and even when rebuttals towards his rebellious behavior are made by his teammates, the show still has him standing proud, spouting out phrases like “I’ll finish this war so I can fly whenever the hell I want”. We’re made to believe he’s a cool guy spouting out cool lines, but in the end he’s just a jerk. But I guess we’re all kinda jerks in one way or another, except towards that girl that we’re trying to impress. Hayate and Freyja aren’t exactly romantic for one another (yet), but I’ll be damned if they aren’t endearing. Their friendship is what allows them to be silly in the eyes of other people, and allows their moments of privacy to be honest depictions of what it is they really value. No one wants to fight a war; everyone involved fights only because they have to. So let the kids be kids whenever they can, even if it means having to deal with a self-righteous asshole like Hayate. Heck, he’ll only learn once he feels the burn of inadequacy — and, really, I think it’s only just a matter of time.

 

The Asterisk War

There wasn’t very much that happened during majority of the first half other than an underwhelming victory over Galahadworth. It’s clear that the show is trying to move its plot forward quickly, but the result was a sort of underplaying of the conflict — almost like having to go through a routine battle that didn’t really matter much despite it being a semi-final match. Well, Galahadworth isn’t really given much focus anyway, and it appears the show isn’t afraid to make that clear by focusing on our two Arelquint (apparently, there’s some spelling issues going on) girls in the second half. A back story and a little clarity on what makes the girls tick adds a little depth to them, but the overall progression seems to be a little predictable. AI’s becoming a little too smart for comfort harks to themes like The Matrix or I, Robot, which seems a little weird for the overall tone of the show this late in the game. And the introduction of another new character makes things a little more complicated than it’s worth at this point, on top of the current absence of several other characters introduced in both the OP and ED (we still haven’t seen the student council president of Queenvail). There’s half a season left for them to tie up the loose ends, but as it stands it looks like they’re going to have to speed things up a little if they want to wrap things up neatly.

 

Joker Game

Joker Game’s weakness in characterization comes to haunt itself in this “spy got captured” episode. Everything seemed rather inconsequential in light of the fact that we know he’s going to escape. Upping the stakes with the inclusion of an ostentatiously evil-looking villain and over-the-top elements like truth serum adds little tension when the resulting escape felt contrived and almost unlikely. But even a highly unlikely sequence of events can be exciting and engaging if only for some amount of investment in the party involved. I have totally no sentiment for this particular spy, partly because I don’t know what motivates him, so his efforts pretty much fall under “yeah, he can do that because he’s a D-Agency super spy”. Leaning on this premise that D-Agency spies are like super spies only makes things seem shallow and undeserving — kinda like a get-out-of-jail-for-free card that omits the essential variables necessary in creating a sensible narrative. Although the plot was a definite minus for what the series as shown thus far, the overall execution and visual direction remained stunning. It’s a shame, really, to see Joker Game stumble like this, but such a setback was, really, due to its lack of characterization. It’s an problem inherent to the formula that the show opted for, and it’s a gamble that will continue to plague the series unless it does something as engaging as it did in Episode 4.

 

Kiznaiver

This episode was a mixed bag of sorts. Although there were nice bits of character interaction between leads like Maki and Hisomu, some Mari Okada weirdness snuck in with lines like “do you want to see my chest” and “I like things normal”. Perhaps the only reasonably interesting turnout was the revelation of a deeper “bond” that linked not just their physical pain, but their emotional pain as well. Tenga let out a nice line when he complained that experiencing physical pain was much better than having to deal with a depressive, heart-wrenching feeling of sorrow and frustration. Indeed, emotional trauma can be a far more wretched feeling than physical harm, and bringing this variable out added some depth once the team was brought together at the end of the episode. Paralleling the resolution of episode two, Katsuhira opens his heart once more to the realization that they are all connected. Just because he doesn’t feel anything doesn’t mean that people close to him don’t feel anything at all — far from it, his resignation towards the atrocities done to him tear at Chidori more than he could possibly imagine. And so he takes the first step in standing up for himself, becoming more of a man and regaining another piece of his humanity. This show is kinda falling into hit-and-miss territory, apparently. The themes of connecting with others is depicted in this show in the extreme — a literal, almost forced, cross-examination of what it means to be with others. To be honest, I’m not sure I’m ready for what Mari Okada has in mind on that subject.

 

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

So the old people aboard the Koutetsujou are not content with Lady Ayame’s leadership and demand she hand over control, only for them to drive the entire train into a shitfest of zombies. It’s clear that Araki is playing the seinen trope of “adults are idiots”. It’s a loud cry of resentment towards the established order in favor of the young, but more so in the “hybrid” characters that sort of transcend everyone else, altogether. Of course, we’re talking about the kabaneri; and who do you think we as consumers of this media relate to? Of course, the protagonist Ikoma. And so in typical Araki fashion, people get brutally slaughtered, Ikoma saves the day, and the young finally stake their (rightful) claim as leaders of the Koutetsujou. It wasn’t a very elegant approach, but that doesn’t mean this episode wasn’t entertaining. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is still a very good show in terms of its aesthetics and overall ability to convey action and suspense. As a narrative, however, it stumbles on making its characters consistent, juggling genre roles with attempts at characterization. This leads to confusing moments like Mumei uncharacteristically asking for permission to help, or the head of the guards taking out a sword to fight in close quarters when it’s obvious to anyone that fighting from a distance with a gun is always far more advantageous (not to mention increasing the risk for friendly fire). But this is standard formula for shows like this, and Araki is probably best at following that rubric whilst blowing up the entire city while he’s at it. So long as it looks cool, anything goes for this show I guess. Unfortunately, this episode’s lack of sensible characters meant that it was difficult for me to connect with them in a way that made the feel like actual humans. They’re still playing roles. They’re still following a formula. But hey, it’s still fun to watch.

 

Kuromukuro

Kuromukuro fell into the trap of “not accomplishing anything” again this week. Just more attempts at underscoring Kennosuke’s silliness as a man trapped in the wrong time frame with only a smattering of plot devices that actually move the story forward. Perhaps the only interesting character was the ridiculously aloof Sophie, who actually kinda made sense. Her questioning of their motives and her underlying frustrations as to how Yukina even became a pilot of the artifact makes her a far more compelling character than any other character presented in these last five episodes. I’m hard pressed to think that this even IS a mecha show. In fact, it feels more like a slice-of-life with mecha trappings. Unless P.A. Works wants to continue pushing this show into obscurity, Kuromukuro needs to reorient itself towards the stuff that really matters — character development between Kennosuke and Yukina and the friggin’ battle against the Demons.

 

Re: Life in a Different World from Zero

Subaru is just so full of himself. I mean, it’s obvious the world reset because someone killed him in his sleep. But instead of making efforts to figure out who the culprit is, he goes on retracing his steps JUST so his date with Emilia can push through. I’m f**king done with Subaru. He’s an idiot. He deserves to be killed over and over again. That’s the only consolation I get from watching this show — seeing him die a bloody death over and over again. I mean, there were some great moments like Rem (or Ram? I dunno, the blue-haired girl) smiling after a pretty decent dialogue (Subaru’s inconsistent with these things. It’s like he knows what buttons to press to make the VN give you the “good” responses), but then he goes on and shits on everything. I know this show CAN be enjoyable, and I think I can understand why people actually like this show. But as a person who likes character-driven stories, I honestly cannot find it in me to stomach Subaru’s outrageous behavior. But don’t get me wrong — characters don’t have to be likeable. Heck, look at Hayate. But when a character like Subaru appears like he’s designed to mock the very story he’s in, it’s quite frankly insulting to anyone who is trying to appreciate the narrative. And I’m TRYING to appreciate the narrative here. Unfortunately, Subaru is making that impossible to do so.

 

Wow, I had quite a lot to say this week — and that’s probably because I’ll be going out of town next week for a convention. So I’ll probably hold off on the weekly reviews and do a mid-season review when I get back the following week. Till next time!

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