Wow, we’re in the double-digits now. Week 10, and then it’s just a little bit more till 2017 — and that means obligatory year-end rankings and what not. But as much as I’m excited for the new year, I was quite similarly excited for what happened this week. If I were to describe this season, I’d probably call it out as some kind of misfit. There were those shows that were obviously good from the start… and then there were those that were just so bad… and then there were those that yo-yo-ed up and down as if trading seats during a game of trip to Jerusalem.
It’s a strange dynamic that is quintessentially Fall 2016. Sure, I feel like it’s screwed me pretty hard, but I feel like it’s been a fun ride nevertheless. So let’s run down just what happened this week:
Natsume Yûjinchou Go
It’s so pleasing to see Natsume Yûjinchou maintain some form of consistency for a change. This episode in particular seemed to unify the themes of all of the episodes that came before it, highlighting the theme of “characters and their objects of affection”. And this “affection” has been presented in the forms of “unrequited love”, “adoration”, “companionship”, and even “guardianship”. I know I may have vented my frustrations throughout the season regarding how some individual episodes were executed, but the sum total of these themes as presented in this one episode seemed to make sense of it all. And they do this by introducing a vignette on how a little masked spirit tries to join a procession of heavenly beings after having experienced companionship with its leader. In many ways, the theme has a Christian-like set of values to it, but even if you aren’t a religious person, the whole idea of pursuing an object of affection is pretty clear. We can lie to ourselves by creating pretenses — by changing our own outward appearances — if only to receive recognition. But such efforts often distract us from who we really are, and the dangers of such are seen when the spirit overhears talk of how “offering a son of man” could please the divine beings. But our little masked spirit had experienced compassion and companionship from what little time he spent with our protagonist. So when he had the choice to “sacrifice” Natsume over wasting his chance of ever becoming part of divinity, he went with the latter. For in the end, his own pretenses to appear more “divine” than he already is failed miserably, and when asked what he could offer, all he could do was realize his own worthlessness — that he has absolutely nothing to offer. But there’s a charm in the little spirit’s realization of his own emptiness in that it brought about a desperate sincerity that tests his own resolve. In his plea to become a part of the divine procession, he found the one thing that would fill up his own emptiness. It’s not in appearances or fleeting experiences of companionship that we feel complete; rather, in realizing the one thing that gives meaning to our very existence that we become whole. This episode was a very profound take on “objects of affection”, and I was simply thrilled to see this franchise finally make my hairs stand on end.
Sound! Euphonium 2
Wow. And I’m not saying that because there was an overly melodramatic scene that involved crying and overly charged, hormonally-driven, adolescence-powered dialogues. Because crying and overly charged, hormonally-drieven, adolescence-powered dialogues only work if you actually resonate with the characters that say them. I definitely resonate with Kumiko. She finally let out the pent in frustrations she had towards her sister — a deep regret that she never got to play with her in the band and that she never made it known that she resented her for it. That she actually regretted not having said her piece, and that every bit of sarcasm and every snap of wit was just her subconscious rebellion towards an unfeeling older sister. That when her sister finally opens up to her, she can’t help but realize that she’s not angry at all — she’s just terribly, terribly sad. And this sadness overwhelms Kumiko when the thought of not being able to play with Asuka in the nationals becomes a looming possibility. And when the floodgates are unlocked, she pours out her own frustrations and becomes, for the first time, an honest high school girl who just wants to play in the concert band with her senior. A lot of the drama in this series has felt a little larger-than-life for the sake of entertainment, but don’t we all tend to think we’re the stars of our own little life shows? Kumiko may have said some amazingly embarrassing lines that some of us probably won’t hear in our lifetime, but all of her words felt earnest and touchingly real.
March comes in like a Lion
Kyouko is such an intriguing character. A lot of her interactions together with Rei seemed both natural and yet totally divorced from the image the show has constructed for her over the past few episodes. It’s a chaotic sort of balance that adds to the complexity of Rei’s lived experience — and it comes in just when Rei is starting to feel comfortable with his new found sense of acceptance. And yet what exactly does it mean to be “accepted”? Kyouko accepts the companionship of a supposedly brutal partner who is in to domestic violence. Kyouko seems to have “accepted” Rei’s decision to leave their father’s house in order to pursue Shougi, but weren’t the two at odds over successorship in the sport? Kyouko comes in at a point in time when Rei is just about reaching enlightenment, which makes me wonder what kind of life has Rei known up to this point? Yet again, a disturbing shadow lurks in the depths of Rei’s memories, and it seems quite opportune that he revisits this demon just as he’s beginning to realize what it means to be accepted by kindred spirits. I honestly don’t know what Kyouko means to him — and that, in itself, is an exciting bit of intrigue for this show to chew on for the next few weeks. For a two-cour show, March comes in like a Lion shows no signs of slowing down.
Yuri!!! on ICE
I was a little skeptical during the first half of this episode since it seemed to be like a re-cap episode, except from the point-of-view of Victor. Thankfully, it went on to explore some more character dynamics, this time outside of the skating rink. I think the decision to develop the characters in the streets of Barcelona was a welcome change of pace for the show, given it followed a rather routine line up of skating expositions with mental overlays. Indeed, I enjoyed the new pairings like Otabek and Yurio, and I also found the way they ignore J.J. hilarious. But perhaps what I appreciated most in this episode was the reason why Victor agreed to become Yuri’s coach in the first place. It’s a question that we never really asked, come to think of it, back in the first episode; bringing it up now, though, almost seems totally natural. Something like, “yeah, I could imagine ‘Yuri’ doing crazy shit like that.” I guess the charm of this series is how it’s able to marry a pleasing character dynamic with elements of modern day connectivity (i.e. Twitter and Facebook), and understanding that modern-day psyche is precisely what makes this show great.
This show is doing one hell of a tightrope act. There’s a lot more exposition in this episode as it feels like thinks are starting to wrap together, and yet again I am burdened with the discomfort of having to speculate. But on a different note, I couldn’t help but feel a certain connection to Lewis Carol with the image of a boat drifting down a river. What is life but a dream? It goes back to some of the things that have been left unquestioned since the first episode, and really it’s only a matter of time before this show either falls flat on its face or rewards us with something totally unexpected. I’m honestly praying for the latter.
It always sucks to see a show that has a blatantly bad episode in terms of animation. And that’s just what happened here — this episode’s animation was just bad. And it seemed like the dialogue seemed to get infected with similarly roundabout lines that didn’t really go anywhere. Even Chitose’s self-serving antics can become old when she forces herself into a corner. The only reason why I’ve found her interesting as a character is because of the ways she bounces off the other girls in the show. But in the absence of her willing participation, she ends up looking like a self-absorbed twat. Either that or some genre trope character with an older brother complex. Probably the only redeeming moment in this episode was when her relentless insults towards her brother seemingly hit a nerve. So all-in-all, this felt like a wasted episode that told me nothing new about Chitose, but seemingly set the stage for some stormy sibling drama. Whoop-dee-doo.
Izetta: The Last Witch
I am just so disappointed in this show. Revenge as a motive isn’t necessarily bad, but a viewer can really only assess the worth of a motive if there is sufficient reason to identify with a character AS a character. This is the reason why shows like 91 Days work even if we know that revenge is “bad”. Because the perpetrator of the revenge is depicted as neither bad nor noble, and the circumstances that push them towards making such a decision are enriched by the complexity of their own character. And this is the very reason why I simply cannot accept Sophie’s motive for revenge — because the entire show has depicted the Germanian forces as blatantly evil. Sophie is just bad, and she’s bad because other people were bad to her. It’s a generic sort of evil that makes her act of revenge appear trite, making it difficult to immerse myself in this broken conflict. And it’s a shame, because the show had already utilized characters that blurred the lines between the obvious delineation of good and evil in war — the deaths of Rickert and Jonas. So yeah, what a shame. I honestly thought this show had immense potential, but man… what a way to squander such great ideas.
Something missing? Yup. Occultic;nine finally kicked the bucket after 10 weeks of watching. The dialogue is just so incredibly convoluted I can’t find the patience in me to even give a damn about what’s being said. It’s as if A-1 Pictures slapped the lines from the light novel verbatim into the events in the show… in fact that’s precisely what they did, resulting in this garbage. So yeah, we’ve reached 10 weeks. Just a little more to go, and it’s Christmas! Until next week, ciao!