I hate myself.
As much as I said that I’d “limit” my viewing list, turns out I added another two shows, which in total makes for nine shows. That’s pretty much my standard viewing list, so there goes my hopes of “trimming” down anything. 0 – over 9000 in favor of Animu, I guess.
But that’s only because this season is actually pretty great! I’m such an idiot for thinking the releases were pretty dull (shame on you), and that’s probably only because I was in a hurry to tick off things from the list just because the cover art wasn’t so “appealing”. Having said that, wonderful pieces like Akiyuki Shinbo’s interpretation of March comes in like a lion went completely under the radar, and so did Wataru Watari’s gi(a)rlish number.
And so here we go with the week in review as I nonchalantly include these two titles as if I never missed out on watching them in the first place. That said, please–PLEASE do not recommend any more shows for me to watch. I’m seriously going to stick a cacatuar into my eyes if I end up adding another show to my list.
So anyway, back to this week. The shows pretty much powered their way through this week with very little reason for me to be worried. But as always, the first few weeks are the moments these shows tend to place their best foot forward. But if the prize for “most improved show” must go out to someone, then it most definitely has to go to Natsume Yûjinchou Go…
Natsume Yûjinchou Go
And it just so happens to be the top show this week! Despite my criticisms regarding its questionable premier episode, this second episode truly grasped the fundamental charm that makes this series such a great watch. All of the elements were at play here — from the thematic parallels between events in the human and spiritual realm, to the recapitulation of these themes in a self-contained dramatic vignette. The “girl spirit” embodied a very earnest depiction of unrequited love as contrasted to the more fickle passing of faces between Natsume’s classmates. And the hospital scene where she meets once again the man she was trying to call out to for over 50 years — the effective use of camera angles created a pseudo dialogue which heightened the dramatic irony of their meeting, driving home a poignant message of love in its most sincere form. The artistic style might be a little dated, but Natsume Yûjinchou certainly doesn’t fail to utilize the dramatic chops that it has honed over the years. This was a stellar episode and, quite probably, one of the more memorable episodes from this series as a whole.
Sound! Euphonium 2
Yeah, I bet you saw this one coming. Kumiko is a very interesting character in that she knows her place. Unlike many MCs that tend to operate in a headspace that clearly defines themselves as the main character, Kumiko is painfully aware of her own inadequacies, both as a person who joined the concert club half-heartedly and as a first year student. Her awkward tendencies towards these inadequacies are in full force this episode as she attempts to understand the complexities of the relationship between the 2nd and 3rd years — and her journey towards understanding that highlights her new-found dedication and passion towards playing the Euphonium. I find it quite lovely that Kumiko was struggling to find her passion in the first season by figuring out the fundamental reasons for wanting to play concert band; now, she’s challenged with understanding the reasons why others try to pursue this craft. She can easily understand Reina (and their little moments of mutual understanding are quite charming at that), but she can’t say the same for her seniors. Sound! Euphonium 2 is doing a very impressive job of using its characters to the fullest, and I’m more than delighted to see the show just blossoming on screen. It’s a real treat every single week.
March comes in like a lion
I’d like to slap myself across the face for missing out on this show. Akiyuki Shinbo, the SHAFT staple who brought us shows like the Monogatari Series with his distinctive artistic style, takes claim to this particular work. But instead of his usual avant-garde presentation with excessively post-modern architectural designs, March comes in like a lion is totally nuanced, having most of those peculiarities focused on highlighting a sense of atmosphere and visual space. And for that, the show gains a remarkable sense of depth that makes Rei’s emotional headspace feel frighteningly real. The effective use of sound and echo during his first Shougi match in the first half resembled the sound of a clock, which was alluded to throughout the scene. In fact, I highly appreciated the lack of dialogue in so much that it allowed us to feel the weight of depression that shackled Rei down. And this was wonderfully contrasted with the light-hearted comedy of the Kawamoto sisters come the second half. Instead of seeming out-of-place, the sudden change of pace created a different tonal quality that points the series more towards a story of enlightenment. It isn’t so much highlighting depression because it’s “artistic that way”, rather, it feels early on that it’s attempting to create a story of triumph beyond that. This first episode has been a wonderful exercise of emotional dexterity that harks to the amazing talents of Akiyuki Shinbo. I’m quite glad I didn’t end up missing such a great show!
Yuri!!! on Ice
Though this week’s Yuri!!! on Ice was a little predictable, the way it went about doing it was still entertaining to see. Yuri has always been that kind of MC that you naturally side with, but what wins me over, really, is his own realization of inadequacy. In many ways, MCs that embody a characteristic that we can truly associate ourselves with (as is the case with Kumiko) are what make for endearing narratives that don’t feel like they’re simply trying to win you over out of sheer force. But this doesn’t always apply to all narratives (look at action flicks, for example), but when it does apply, the effect can be tremendous. Yuri’s typical “yuri lines” like “I want to keep eating katsudon with you!” speak of remarkable determination whilst remaining sincere to the things that drive you. It may seem petty to others, but for you it’s what drives you. And this sincerity is what makes Yuri’s trials towards becoming a premier figure skater all the more endearing. That said, however, Yuri!!! on Ice will need to start showing some signs of narrative flexibility if it wants to keep people’s attention. It’s nice and fine that we get to see Yuri’s dreams fulfilled and all, but the flip side of that is that it can become rather boring if the viewer’s investment is purely out of what they think they can expect. And I can only say such criticism because I’m fully invested in this show, and I’d hate to see it amount to just a one-note trick of a show.
I honestly would have skipped this show had it not been for someone mentioning that the show was written by Wataru Watari, the man behind the phenomenal Oregairu. That said, the dialogue in this premier episode was nothing short of witty, ridiculously acute, and reasonably realistic. This show isn’t under the illusion of portraying reality as it is, rather, it knows exactly what sort of game it’s getting into and just as well decides to play off of it for kicks. This satirical take on the anime industry attempts to highlight its absurdity by introducing outlandishly ridiculous characters, but at the same time grounds itself with interestingly realistic, and at times harsh, rhetoric. One of my favorites was Chitose’s mention of “why people keep making anime they know won’t sell”. Combining her cheeky lines with her two-faced character also serves to humanize her character, as well as many other people introduced. So far, gi(a)rlish number has proven that it can create a reasonably engaging satire on the anime industry that would probably stack up much higher than the more light-hearted shows out there, but there are just so many ways for this type of genre to lose sight of what makes it unique and simply ramble. I really hope this show will maintain a sort of consistency unique to its own style. Otherwise, it will just be “another one of those shows”.
Izetta: The Last Witch
As I watch this show, I’m beginning to realize more and more how generally safe this type of narrative is. For all intents and purposes, Izetta: the Last Witch is probably the safest show to watch this season, quite simply because it covers all the necessary bases to make a genuinely engaging show: 1) grounded conflict [check]; 2) immersive setting [check]; 3) intriguing lead character dynamics [check]; 4) magic [yup]. But kidding aside, this week’s episode felt, for lack of a better word, “safe” in that it was simply laying out the cards for what would probably be future conflicts and further “increasing of the stakes”. There isn’t really any need for Izetta: the Last Witch to push itself any further than necessary, and this becomes painfully obvious with the slight decline in consistency of the art. But nevertheless, I’m throughly engaged with the conflict in the show, make no mistake about that. I just feel that it will have to maintain some level of consistency, and perhaps even go beyond that, if it wants to become more than just a “safe recommendation”.
There seems to be some sort of internal language going around Flip Flappers that makes it seem that conventional rules don’t necessarily apply in the world that it inhabits. And I’m not talking about Pure Illusion, I’m talking about even the normal world that Cocona lives in. For one, it appears to be some mix of East and West. Not to mention the weird “field vacuum” that appears as if it were something totally normal. Being eccentric is fine, but it becomes lost when there is a blur between these rules, and failing to direct the viewer with cues that would allow them to discover these rules can be interpreted as either laziness or simply failing to get the point across. Flip Flappers ended up doing just that in this week’s episode, but that isn’t to say that it still wasn’t full of zany ideas that were quite fascinating to see unfold — all in the beautiful animation that the series is known for. Although that being said, some things were explained (albeit a little off-handedly) in the latter part of the episode, but there are still a whole slew of questions that loom in the horizon. Like, wasn’t Cocona abducted at the end of the first episode? What kind of animal is Uexkill? And what the hell is up with that name? Flip Flappers will have to figure out how it’s going to translate its world’s language to viewers by the end of next week’s episode, otherwise it might find itself fading out into obscurity.
BBK/BRNK: The Gentle Giants of the Galaxy
BBK/BRNK was pretty “shounen-ney” this week, if that’s even a word. Buildings crumble, siblings reunite, mechas clash, and friends become enemies. That pretty much sums up everything that happened this week, and where that falls in the whole plot of the show is lost to me. I’ve resigned myself to simply watching what happens on screen and allowing the show to tell me its story, no matter how weird and convoluted it gets. I honestly don’t know why, but I find the show charming enough to grant it some attention — probably because I find the characters amusing, and I’m one of the few people who actually finds CG-generated characters quite fascinating to watch. But when all is said and done, BBK/BRNK is rather simplistic in its narrative delivery albeit tangled up in a massive web of plot devices — something quite characteristic of most Shounen titles.
Yeah, it’s kinda unfair to put this here given that it hasn’t even aired its second episode yet, but that’s what Occultic;Nine gets for airing so late. Oh well, at least next week, it’ll include something different for us to compare it with.
Whew! And there you have it — nine spankin’ shows this season, and most of them are off to a great start. I’m actually having fun the most this season than any other that came before it. Who knew such a dull batch would actually turn out to hold quite a few gems in them. Until next week! Ciao!