Yup, that’s what I look like at the moment.
This entry comes in a bit late because I couldn’t procrastinate any further with my 4,500-word dissertation proposal. That and the fact that I’m heading up to Glasgow next week, so I needed to cram in everything I could before the week was up. As a result, the weekly review had to take a step back — but that didn’t mean I didn’t sneak in a show or two to tide me through the droll task of putting thought to… er, screen.
And fortunately (or unfortunately) there was one show that was cancelled this week due to changes in the holiday broadcasting schedule, namely March comes in like a Lion. Although it sucked not having my dramatic character-driven fix for the week, it sucked even more in that some of the shows kinda just blew up on themselves. This was, honestly, a really tiring week in both RL and animeland, so let’s rundown what the heck happened–
Sound! Euphonium 2
This week’s Sound! Euphonium wasn’t so much about the reveal than it was, really, a celebration of what makes Kumiko’s character so endearing. True, I wasn’t totally sold on the idea of Asuka being the product of a failed marriage, and how her subconscious attraction towards the Euphonium was a means to re-connect with a father she never knew (which turns out to be the reason why her Mother is so against her playing in the concert band). Instead, I was drawn more towards how the show embraces Kumiko’s inherent cynicism as something essential in connecting with other people. It’s often difficult to portray cynicism as a positive trait towards growth, but in Kumiko’s case, her lack of trust in others actually pushes her to pursue the truth — that which is real. Indeed, cynical characters can often come off as self-righteous and insufferable at first (take Hachiman from SNAFU or Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya for example), but unless they grow out of their self-serving shells, their tribulations end up as rambling statements towards an unfair world. But characters like Hachiman and Kyon are endearing precisely because they learn how to embrace an unfair world in spite of their cynicism — that it is in being astute enough to dismiss the pleasantries of the world as inauthentic that you are pushed to pursue that which is truly genuine. Quite similarly, Kumiko has grown throughout this show to reveal how her skepticism towards others (which was first sowed by her own sister) actually brings her closer to an enigmatic Asuka — and this is perhaps one of the defining moments of the season thus far. We’ve come a long way since the first season, and I’m glad to see Kumiko grow this much as a character.
gi(a)rlish number isn’t exactly the best character drama out there, partly because it tries to tackle many different issues at once to the point that it distracts itself from the point its trying to make. Indeed, this episode was trying to make a lot of points, so much so that it almost felt a little nagging. But one of the more obvious points, perhaps, was how people tend to take things for granted. Using a photographer’s analogy, things get out of focus the closer you get to them — and indeed the episode tries to portray this using a lot of depth of field tricks that obscure either Momoka or Kazuha from the frame. It points towards a complex dynamic that forces both of them to try and regain some focus on what it means for either of them to enter the industry and the ways in which peripheral noises tend to distort our views on the matter. In Kazuha’s case, for example, she interprets her Father’s harsh criticism towards her profession as his refusal to accept her line of work. But the reality is that her Father believes in passion in work just as much as Kazuha does, and so reprimands her when she dismisses her own work as inadequate and something she was forced to do against her own will. Although I’m not sure how Momoka‘s conversation with her mother reflects my initial thoughts on “Momoka vs. Industry“, this episode still pretty much portrayed a satisfying reflection on what it means to take step back to realize what drives us, and why we pursue the things we think are worth pursuing. I think a trip to Yamagata is now in order!
Natsume Yûjinchou Go
I think we’re sorta getting there. Natsume Yûjinchou works so much better when it isn’t trying to antagonize one party or the other in the way that episodes 3 and 4 painted Matoba in a generally unfavorable light. Just as Eastern mysticism does not necessarily create a dichotomy between “good” and “evil”, there is a similar gradient in value systems that makes for more dynamic, believable characters who have perfectly valid reasons for believing in the things they do. And this is the sort of introspection we get from this episode that paints a background story on Shuichi and his path towards becoming an exorcist. It’s interesting how the story utilizes the viewer’s own familiarity with Natsume as a contrasting point for Shuichi. In many ways they share similar personality traits, but the latter differs in his own upbringing, the people that surround him, and the circumstances that push him towards an ideal — namely, his negative encounter with Matoba. Natsume’s own negative experiences, for example, is what caused him to shut himself in, only to embrace the warmth of acceptance after reconnecting with the memories of his Grandmother who also shared experiences like his. In contrast, Shuichi’s own negative experiences in his family was amplified by his own negative impression of Matoba, and he is driven by a need need to prove himself in order to challenge Matoba’s self-serving ideology — and this, I believe, actually makes for a solid character motive. This was a welcome change of pace from the droll episodes that came before it, but I seriously wish this season had many more episodes like this one. It just hurts to see something of this quality come out after so much wasted effort.
It feels a bit weird when narrative progression in Flip Flappers translates to something a little predictable. I can kinda see where this story is starting to go, and that annoys me because I want to remain oblivious to the plot if only to enjoy the sense of adventure that the series has been spoiling me with. And that, perhaps, is one of the reasons why this episode did not really resonate much with me, being driven mostly by dramatic devices like Papika displacing Cocona for Mimi, or Yayaka turning out to be involved in some kind of experiment surrounding Cocona. I think the issue really boils down to how these devices have caused me to speculate, which I think is something tragic to have in a fairy tale. Do kids ever speculate whether or not Little Red Riding Hood will really fall for a wolf dressed up as a granny? So I guess I’m worried at how the unravelling of the plot at this point seems to tear apart at what I feel is the essence that makes this show so endearing in the first place — and that, quite frankly, is a very odd position to be in.
Yuri!!! on ICE
Hmm… I don’t know what to say. I think I’ve become immune to the character development at this point since nothing really seems to be happening other than the characters sliding across the ice and speaking their heart out. I’m not exactly moved by their motives, and I feel more and more that the show is just trying to pit its characters in more and more gratuitous positions. That and the fact that there didn’t seem to be any real point in leaving Yuri behind with Yurio’s coach, and that Yuri and Yurio’s rivalry is pretty ho-hum at best. I dunno. It’s not bad, but it’s not really good either. We’ve reached limbo, I guess.
Izetta: the Last Witch
Dear God, what the hell happened to this show? To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with using anachronistic devices in any show — case in point, I had no problems with them saying that the Germanians were working on cloning during the 1940’s. But holy crap, is that the show’s response to the over-powered Izetta? One of the problems of this show is how it can create a sensible conflict given how Izetta’s strength makes the battle essentially one-sided. One way (and the more intriguing way, honestly) is to show how the Germanian forces can learn from Izetta’s weaknesses and use that as a means to challenge her strength. This is the reason why movies like Batman Vs. Superman actually come across as appealing despite a whole load of gibberish come the end of the film. But to bring out another witch with a shoddy background story? Talk about unimaginative! Plus, tons of loopholes started creeping up with the decision to present it the way they did this episode. Why the heck were they transporting Izetta on public transportation in the first place? If they got so much blood from her, why did the Germanian mad scientist have to bring his cloned witch to bite Izetta on the neck? How were the Germanians able to anticipate that they’d find half of the Magic Stone inside the witches layer at the old castle in Eldystat? I mean seriously, not only is the story wrecked at this point, the whole plot is falling apart! This is just terrible!
Technobabble. So much technobabble. If you want to sound smart, start by creating a sensible narrative with sensible characters. Otherwise, you sound like a whole load of bullshit.
And there you have it. Man, what a tiring week. We’re starting to hit the final stretch, and news of what’s in store for the next season are starting to crop up. There’s news of a second season for Attack on Titan, plus the second season for Rakugo Shinju, and finally the announcement of a second season for Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt. As early as now, 2017 is looking to be an exciting year — and I can’t wait!