What the– it’s mid-season, already?
Holy crap how time flies. That means I need to prepare a mid-season round-up soon. I dunno if it’s because so many things have been happening as of late, or maybe I’m just having too much fun this season. Because to be honest, I’m actually quite surprised with how the shows have been fairing this season. I mean, there’s March comes in Like a Lion, Rakugo Shinjû, and even Scum’s Wish and ACCA that are doing just fantastic. I mean, I hope I’m not sounding overly optimistic for a critic, but the shows are actually GOOD for a change.
But then again, every time I say that mid-season, I get disappointed when it comes time to pack up. Not that I’m getting anyone’s hopes up — I just honestly feel like I’m enjoying myself this season. And I guess that’s something to be happy about.
So just how were the shows on Side A this week? Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!
March comes in like a Lion
*nom nom nom*
Every episode with Kyouko in it is a compelling one. The dynamic between her and Rei is tragic in that they are each their own oppressor and yet they are dependent on one another for emotional acceptance. Even though Kyouko uses psychological warfare in a passive aggressive manner against Rei, these habits belie a greater connectedness the two share in that no other person understands her better than Rei. But Rei summarizes their predicament quite painfully: “unable to change, and unable to become siblings nor remain strangers”. This sentiment more or less recapitulates the theme of Stagnation, which was introduced in the first half of the season, but is again used to tremendous effect here. Rei realizes that “moving on” is more than simply acting on impulse. Moving out of one’s adoptive home; attempting to give his adoptive father money as payment for taking him in; thinking that winning against Gôjo to prove his resolve as an adult — all of this seemed petty to the kind of “movement” exemplified in Harunobu’s resolve to surpass Rei. And in these actions, Rei realized that Harunobu’s resolve was born out of a response to the world around him. Harunobu wished to become better because Rei pummeled his ego and made him realize that there are many great players out there, and to become better you need to overcome your own limitations. That Harunobu‘s conscientiousness towards Shimada’s personal feelings shows how “mature” he is as an individual, and that he thinks about the welfare of others and not just his own. But for at least one segment in this episode, I think I’d like to give Rei a little credit for actually showing some form of growth despite his repeated self-loathing and feeling that he isn’t changing:
He said “thank you” for the first time.
It’s a small gesture, but it shows that he didn’t let what his homeroom teacher taught him go to waste. And perhaps moving further, his own realization of “stagnation” in other people — in the way he resonates with Souya 8th Dan — makes me feel that he is growing; he just has to realize it and stop beating himself up for it. What’s left now is for the show to give a little more insight into what exactly Kyouko is dealing with. It’s been a piecemeal affair to have to figure out why she’s run away from home, and why she and Rei are so intimately dependent on one another. But that, in itself, is the charm in their troubled relationship. Man, I can just keep going on and on about this show, but if you can’t already tell, I just love this show so much.
Shôwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjû: Sukeroku Futatabi Hen
First off, let me just say that the visual direction in this show is absolutely stunning. The camerawork in this episode during Yotarô’s performance of Inokori was somewhat all over the place — but that worked in favor of the delivery of the story! It’s very hard to pull off eccentric camera angles the way the show did, which just goes to show that if you know what you’re doing — and what emotion you’re trying to evoke with the use of such eccentric visuals — you can get away with it and even add on to the visual vocabulary through evocative framing.
Technicalities aside, however, his week’s episode was a welcome shift towards adding texture to Yotarô. He may be a dunce, but he, too, knows what it means to be a performer. He understands the motto “the show must go on”, and is able to perform a stellar rendition of Inokori. But I think his resolve to continue the tradition of Rakugo isn’t given justice with Higuchi’s analysis of Yotarô’s performance. He claims that the reason why his Inokori was excellent was because, unlike his predecessors, he divorces himself from the players on stage and becomes the characters, themselves. His lack of an ego makes his stories feel more pure, and allows the audience to experience each individual character without having technical execution or personal biases get in the way (which were features of Yakumo and Sukeroku’s performances, respectively).
But this analysis, again, betrays the fact that Yotarô does relate to the characters in the story. In fact the story Inokori features a con man, which is what Yotarô once was — but even he embraced that fact by completing his own tattoo. Saying that he becomes characters is tantamount to saying that it doesn’t matter who Yotarô was in the past — it’s a denial of who he once was — and makes it seem like he masks his past sins through the art of Rakugo. I believe that sort of analysis oversimplifies the reason why Yotaro does Rakugo in the first place, and quite similarly, grossly underestimates his own abilities to express himself in a way that is uniquely his. It’s like saying his lack of character makes him a character in and of himself — which is absurd.
So yeah, though I disagree with Higuchi’s opinion (and it looks like Yotarô isn’t impressed with it, either), this episode was a great step towards characterizing Yotarô further. Now what’s left is to pry open Yakumo’s hidden emotions and finally let everything out. This is gonna be great.
Tales of Zestiria the X
I honestly think Tales of Zestiria the X is at its best when it’s simply focusing on the adventure RPG aspects that make it so engaging in the first place. The past few episodes, indeed, felt a little slow and overly introspective, so it’s nice to see some actual tension build up. Especially when it involves returning to the main conflict involving the root of evil — Malevolence. Perhaps the biggest beef I had with this episode is Sorey unnecessarily dragged the whole Rose wants to become a squire bit with his half-assed worries about her own safety. If the reason why he agreed was because Rose was so insistent, it seems like a total dick move to say ‘kay’, especially when he realizes that purifying a dragon might be too much for him to handle. Not to mention Little Miss Peer Pressure Layla, hammering down on Sorey to recruit her like that. The whole drama behind pros and cons felt like a forced dramatic device, so whatever — it’s obvious from the previous credit rolls that Rose becomes a squire, so if the show was going to give a reason as to why she went and did it, they already achieved that in the previous episode. So yeah, what was all that about?
But yeah, we’re finally moving back to the main story back in Ladylake, which is good. There was also some reference back to Tales of Bestiria, but I haven’t played the game so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be thrilled by that prospect. Oh well, at least it’s back to some adventure RPG-like conflicts, something I’m honestly pretty excited to see.
Demi-chan wa Kataritai
I feel like this show has started to exhaust all of its setups and so decides to place Tetsuo in Akari’s house at the behest of her own parents. I mean, that’s fine and all — and it’s nice that they mention how the families of all of the girls are helping each other out — but are Akari’s parents really that complacent in letting their children bicker in front of a guest? This episode was an odd mix of “ah, that’s nice” to “seriously? you said that?“. I think it boils down to a lack of balance between meaningful exchange of dialogue and bare-bones fan service. And given that the show DOES have legitimately interesting exchanges, all of the fan service becomes more or less a distraction. Heck, they even went to the extent of recycling the gag where Tetsuo holds in his sexual urges after Sakie presses her boobs together whilst leaning forward (do women seriously do that in real life?).
So yeah, this is becoming one mess of a show that seems to have its priorities in a mix. On the one hand, it’s trying to make an earnest discussion on the minority, but at the same time it’s obviously trying to maximize the harem setup between students and a teacher. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to resonate with a show that seems to have an ulterior motive to its supposed value proposition.
And there you have it! I’m kinda glad some time opened up for me to catch up on the shows, so here’s to hoping that I can keep this pace up in time for the mid-season round up. Until next time, ciao!