This week was a pretty unproductive week for me. I promised myself to complete a 4,500-word report as part of the initial submission for my dissertation, and so far I’ve only written about 300 words worth. And here I am right now, writing down my regular 2000-word weekly column — all for the sake of animu.
But there were other reasons for the setback in writing. For one, I’m having a hard time putting down into words what it is I need to say. That and the fact that I watched Fantastic Beasts and where to find them on Monday, and I just came from the premiere of Your Name. a few hours before writing this. Yeah, both so much and so little has happened this week that it’s making me feel a little dizzy.
But wait, what about the anime? Well, at eight weeks in, much of what I’m saying right now is just filler material. That’s right — I’m just saying a couple random things to get the ball rolling, but suffice it to know that the anime has been pretty much steady this week, give or take a few that gave me some mixed feelings. So enough of that and let’s get things started!
March comes in like a Lion
It’s comes as no surprise that March comes in like a Lion is very comfortable with its dramatic pacing. Even at week 8, the show is just pummeling through with its dramatic exposition on the lived experience of Rei, and for the first time we catch a glimpse of what appears to be enlightenment after weeks of lingering despair. Rei has always imprisoned himself in his own musings, often persecuting himself for his own “sins” against Kyouko and her family. In a way, he unconsciously “de-colors” his own world as if to make up for it, trapping himself in that colorless world together with the haunting grin of a menacing Kyouko. It twists his world and transforms mundane small talk — like the innocent support given by anonymous co-chess players when he lost his first few rounds as a professional player — into shards of harsh rhetoric. In a world that seems utterly hostile, Rei gets a surprise when a junior asks him why he continues going to school even if he’s already a professional Shougi player. And for the first time, Rei experiences the feeling of expressing himself and being understood by someone else. And this happens again in the second half when Rei lashes out on Harunobu’s patronizing commentary during one of his televised matches. Though Rei failed to realize and appreciate how much Harunobu actually understands him by seeing through the way he plays, it’s Hina who goes one step further by reassuring Rei for his sudden, uncontrolled outburst. Rei couldn’t really process what her words meant, but it’s quite clear that he was expecting Hina to be afraid of him. That this seemingly docile guy had a dark side to him — which he knew he had. But instead, she accepted him for who he was and even asked if she could enter his world — she asked Rei to teach her how to play Shougi. Rei’s journey towards enlightenment has been a long time coming, and it’s probably still quite a ways to go. But the journey thus far has been an endearing one. Rei needs to realize that there are so many kindred spirits around him, willing to accept him for who he is — he just has to stop looking down to notice it.
Quite a lot of issues were brought up in this week’s episode of gi(a)rlish number, including a sharp take on how life isn’t very different than the idealized world of show business and acting. Momoka drives this point hard with a lot of words that attack the inauthenticity of her character. As a child star and daughter of a prominent voice actress, her life has basically been anything BUT normal. People treat her differently; people have all sorts of expectations of her; even her own parents treat her like just another professional in the animation scene. But she knows that people act around her the way they do only because of who she is as a member of industry, and so she passively dismisses it all by saying that “that’s just the way they want it”. And in many ways, this explains her fixation for Kazuha and Chitose. In the former, she sees integrity and authenticity — an ability to remain true to one-self in spite of the impositions of industry. And in the latter, she see’s an utter lack of respect for the establishment, and a brash sense of disinhibition — the ability to say what’s on your mind and believing that you’re the shit even if you’re not. And to drive home the point even further, Momoka witnesses Kazuha’s doting mother, and the stark contrast to her own lived experience makes her long for something genuine. And so regardless of how silly it may have seemed to her at first, she makes an uncharacteristic move and embraces Chitose’s idea of joining Kazuha on her trip back to Yamagata. This episode was a great introspection into the character of Momoka and how it reflects upon a demoralizing industry that strips us of our own identity. But it’s Momoka’s rebellion against that same industry that shows us how we simply can’t lie towards our innate desire for something real, and that we must act towards that end if we ever want to achieve it.
Sound! Euphonium 2
To be honest, I felt that this episode was a little too melodramatic, and the lack of substantial focus on Kumiko’s sister meant that her ordeal felt pretty shallow. But at the very least, I’m beginning to understand what makes Kumiko tick. Her brutally curt attitude is likely something she got from her father, and her general coldness towards her sister reflects an underlying sense of disappointment in her — namely that she crumbled in the face of adversity. And for a young Kumiko, it was difficult to see that happen to the person she looked up to. And this same habit of placing expectations on an object of adoration is mirrored in Asuka and how she is now acting as the equivalent of Kumiko’s sister in the band. She realizes this, and her apprehensions towards Asuka mirrors the same traumatic experience of Kumiko losing faith in her own sister. But Kumiko, in spite of her frank disposition, insists on believing in Asuka. Perhaps its because Asuka is an enigma, even to her. But after reaching the Nationals in a band she once deemed as terrible, she has all the reason to think that she can actually believe in Asuka, and she even goes as far as defending her when Aoi tries to besmirch her character. There really isn’t much Kumiko can do other than continue to believe in Asuka and that she meant it when she said to her that they’d make it to the Nationals. Although I wasn’t really a fan of how the narrative started to beat around with dramatic hurdles left and right, I’m really appreciating Kumiko’s efforts to navigate her feelings towards the other members of the band. It wasn’t a particularly strong episode, but an endearing one nonetheless.
Izetta: the Last Witch
I’m beginning to understand why this show isn’t so focused on the action as, say, Girls und Panzer despite having the same historical accuracy and production cast to boot. For one, this episode made it clear that it actually contains some anti-war sentiments. Though some people may have found the deaths of Jonas and Rickert a little distasteful, I think that was the whole point. War is ugly. The people who die are the young, the talented, the nameless person you shared an apple with or traded stories with along the journey. Their death is meaningless in a similarly meaningless conflict. And the show has no qualms of ending on the note that personal interests and self-preservation come first before national alliances. Instead of seeing the second coming of the White Witch as a possible end to the conflict, the United States of Atlanta sees it as a threat — a rhetoric that is both realistic and appalling. And Rickert’s dying message is a response to the appalling nature of war itself — that war is a clash of ideologies waged by man against man. But the death of one man by another is a tragedy regardless of the ideologies they espouse; regardless of the reasons that they fight; and regardless of the one left standing at the pull of the trigger. There is no victory in war. What this show needs to do, now, is build up from this message and not let these two young men’s deaths be in vain.
I’m not so sure how I feel about this episode given the sheer amount of suggestive framing and tasteless innuendoes. But at the same time, I appreciate the way the episode was able to elaborate a bit further on the nature of Pure Illusion while providing Cocona a small moment to reflect on her previous apprehensions against manipulating events in the said world. She may have felt bad for causing Iro-senpai to toss away her artwork, but a person’s values are not something for Cocona to judge. When given the chance to save this particular manifestation of Pure Illusion, she decides to throw away all reservations and for the first time volunteer to fight knowing the consequences of her actions. Here, Cocona discovers her own moral culpability — the duty to do what is right given you have the means to do it. It’s another triumph for Cocona on her path towards self-actualization, but I guess this episode just had too many raunchy cuts for my taste. Well, at least there were a lot of gloriously messed up Kaijuu sequences. And that one robot in the end was so ridiculously messed up, idonteven–
Yuri!!! on ICE
I wasn’t particularly impressed by Yuri!!! on ICE this week, probably because it was just another episode of character introductions and more Yuri pseudo-flirting with Victor. I’m not even sure what to make of the whole “Italian incest couple”, but I guess that’s a thing now for this show, given that it refuses to make any typical couple pairings (which isn’t a bad thing, really). But the highlight of this episode was supposed to be Yurio, which ended up being overshadowed by the twist at the end of the show when Victor asks Yakov to cover for him while the former goes back to Japan to check on how Makkichin (the dog) is doing. I mean, I would’ve loved to have seen some development in Yurio other than a feminized shot of his entrance and his muttering over the absence of his Grandfather, but oh well. I blame it more on the nature of the show rather than the actual pacing of the narrative. All I can do is hope that the next episode will refocus on developing Yurio and his rivalry with Yuri. Because as much as I have said that I appreciate the lack of any brute Shounen sport-staple-rivalry in this show, the show’s current energy level is BADLY in need of such conflict. So far, Yurio is doing most of the “rival-ing” while Yuri seems to be pre-occupied with seducing Victor. Yurio deserves a little more attention from Yuri, which I hope is something the show will reember in the next episodes to come.
I’m starting to get a little irritated at how the show rambles for most of its run, only to throw in a hook at the end to justify further watching. It’s a droll thing to have to suffer through every week, but at the very least the story is starting to get interesting. And yeah, there was a random reference to Steins;Gate this episode. I’ll give you a clue: El. Psy. Congroo. Other than that, I can’t find it in me to comment in depth regarding the actual mystery elements of this show. For one, occult is a tricky theme to use in the mystery genre, because that generally makes all things fair game. Without any set rules, such a setup runs the danger of making the reveal seem a little half-assed. And that’s one of the reasons why The Perfect Insider lacked any satisfying reveal, despite having a pretty strong character base. In contrast, Occultic;Nine has a flimsy character base that is propelled primarily by industry tropes. Eight episodes in and I’m still finding it hard to believe that this show will become anything like Steins;Gate. And that’s a shame.
Natsume Yûjinchou Go
I’m going to be brutally frank: this episode was pointless. There is no point. Tanuma knew, all along, that Ito-san wasn’t human. Why does she have to threaten Natsume not to tell him just to prove that she cares for Tanuma that much? What’s the point of it all? Why are we even bothering sharing the story of a guardian spirit who suddenly has to leave now that word’s out she’s not human? But then she decides to stay when she sees Natsume’s resolve? Seriously, Studio Shuka, what the hell are you doing?
Okay, I kinda went over 2,000 words, so if you made it this far — congratulations, you spend too much time on my blog. But honestly, I just have too much to think about when it comes to Anime. And speaking about too much to think about, I’m really thinking a lot about Your Name., which, to be honest, gave me some mixed impressions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely Makoto Shinkai and everything I’ve known about him thus far. But yeah, just wait for the review. So until next time, Ciao!