Weekly Rundown: Winter Week 3

Welcome to the very first official installment of my weekly anime overview. I will quickly go over some thoughts and opinions of all the stuff I watched this week, in no particular order. Pretty straightforward. That being said, it was kind of a weirdly mixed bag of episodes this week. With the Fall leftovers putting in some mostly middling episodes and a few of the Winter shows striving to make the cut at as this is the general make-or-break point of the season. All told though, I’m still watching a kind of ridiculous number of shows this season and that number seems distressingly stable at this point. Which sets up a dangerous precedent, as I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep up with this kinda workload forever. But I’ll cross that bridge as I get to it. Let’s get things started!

UntitledLog Horizon 2 ep 15: With Shiroe’s dungeon-crawling and Akatsuki’s identity issues resolved from the last major story arc, it was time for Log Horizon to start on a new journey. Which this episode takes quite literally, by sending Minori and the other kids off on their first big quest as a group. But that was the very end of the episode. The proceeding 20 minutes was mostly one of LH’s relaxed slice-of-life episodes. Rudy acts like he’s auditioning for the Ouran Host Club, Serara has bubbly teenage-girl fantasies about Nyanta, you know the drill. The two major highlights of the episode were the explicit focus on Isuzu, and some incidental bits of worldbuilding. The former was mostly a refrain of Log Horizon’s undercurrent about finding purpose and identity in a world where those things now have taken on new meaning for people, with an exploration of isuzu’s relationship to music in-game and in her former life. While the other was mostly a exploration of how the nature of quests factors into the economy and society of Elder Tale’s Akihabara. This episode was mostly a series of quiet character moments and Log Horizon Stock Jokes. Nothing really exciting or new, but there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with it either.

UntitledYour Lie in April ep 14: Early on in this show, I found Tsubaki was easily one of the story’s most compelling and relatable characters. It was inevitable though, that with the focus on Kousei’s return to piano and his relationship with Kaori, that Tsubaki would largely be relegated to the sidelines. Now that Kousei has been able to reconcile the memories of his mother with his guilt over her death, the story finally has some room to breath before it inevitably shuffles Kaori off the mortal coil. Which means that this episode was dedicated entirely to advancing Tsubaki through her own character arc, and it was perhaps one of the show’s strongest episodes to date. In an earlier episode, one of Tsubaki’s school friends remarks to her that it was out-of-character for Tsubaki to be moping around, as “being genki is your best quality”. This line seemed innocuous at the time, but thinking back on it, actually cuts right to the heart of Tsubaki’s character. Tsubaki plays the hot-headed, energetic older sister because that’s the one thing she thinks defines her as an individual. Being genki isn’t just her best quality, in her mind, it’s her only quality. Tsubaki defines herself entirely by her relationship to Kousei. She helps Kaori push Kousei back into music not because she thinks it’s what Kousei needs, but because it’s what Tsubaki wants. Kousei is the sun to her moon, and Tsubaki can only shine by following behind him. Tsubaki desperately tries to deny her growing feelings for Kousei, terrified to upset the delicate equilibrium between the two. But as she watches him get closer and closer to Kaori, she’s pushed further and further into a corner. If Tsubaki confesses and it doesn’t work out, she loses Kousei. If she does nothing and Kaori takes him away, it will just be the same result. This conflict comes to a head at the end of this episode when Kousei confides in her that he will be moving away to attend a High School with a music program. Devastated, Kaori runs away cursing the music that is taking Kousei away from her and cursing herself for her own failings. In a sequence that would have ended much worse in some other shows.

Untitled2Parasyte ep 15: It’s been a rough patch of episodes for Parasyte. The workmanlike directing and somewhat glacial focus on overt plot beats has left Parasyte a bit dull, in all honesty. Even the first half of this episode, which resolves the plot thread with the Private Eye and has a pretty sweet fight sequence, felt mostly like yet another retread of the same old points the show has been hammering in since the beginning. Shinichi fails to protect someone, anguishes about his humanity, and resolves to put the blue-and-red spider costume on one more time–oh wait, wrong cartoon. At this point is is pretty difficult to ignore how comic booky Parasyte is. Aside from being a suspiciously uncanny retread of the Spider-man mythos, it has quite a few of the same problems as a lot of post-Silver Age comics. The women of Parasyte exist largely to facilitate Shinichi’s journey, mostly by being in constant mortal danger. And Shinichi himself feels far more of a cipher than the show seems to to think he is. Having Shinichi constantly tormented by his role as a the narrative bridge between Parasyte’s Body Horror Action Mystery Story and the Normal Everyday Human Anime Highschool Life segments kinda fails to add any actual depth to his character after the bazillionth time. Which is fine when Parasyte isn’t trying to do Character Stuff. This show has settled pretty decidedly into the realm of Plot-Driven, and thankfully that seems to have shifted into high gear by the end of this episode. Shinichi’s one-man crusade has finally landed him on the Parasite Cabal’s shit list and his Normal Guy/Superhero fence-sitting has finally started to have real consequences. If this is Parasyte gearing up for it’s Final Act, I’m definitely on board for the ride.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi ep 3: Welp. This episode was about as subtle as a swift boot to the junk. The seemingly disparate horror-movie references? Okay. The bears being judged in a metaphorical Court of Male Opinions? Good stuff. Aggressive lesbian stereotypes characterized as inhuman monsters? I see what you did there. But literally scrawling “Doesn’t follow social norms = Evil” on the screen is maybe just a teensy-weensy bit too on-the-nose, I think. I mean, if you are still confused about where this show is going thematically, I can only assume you are an alien from the same planet as Bautista’s character in Guardians of the Galaxy. Ikuhara has historically been more of an Ideas Guy than a traditional storyteller, but even I feel like this show is a little too focused on the abstracts. Far be it from me to begrudge an artist for shifting priorities over time, but I definitely feel like Ikuhara is never quite going to top Utena as the happy middle-ground between Penguindrum’s meandering sensory overload and YuriKuma’s practically beating the audience over the head with metaphor. Thankfully, the show does at least seem to be shifting towards some slightly more grounded conflicts, with Ginko’s increasingly transparent feelings for Kureha, and the school headmistress very likely being the bear that ate her mother. I’m actually kind of surprised how much ground this show has covered thematically in 3 episodes, and makes me wonder if we aren’t headed for a sharp right-turn into something totally different. It’s rare for me to understand what a show is doing, but not have any ideas where it’s going after so few episodes, and that actually makes me kind of excited to see more. What other puzzle pieces is Ikuhara going to shove in my face? I have to wonder if the Big Picture is going to be the same at the end of the series.

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The Rolling Girls ep 2: Goddamn. Just, goddamn. Wit Studio sure knows how to throw all dat Titan money around. This episode fell a bit flat in the writing department(though the jokes were better), but holy shit did it look mindblowing. The colors, the animation, the cinematography, even the little character moments was like watching Redline go into diabetic shock. Not that the episode was totally vapid, though. There were quite a few choice lines like Masami’s “There’s nobody in the Maccha Green suit”, which could be taken a dozen different ways. The episode ends with our eponymous Rolling Girls finally together and set to embark on what seems like it’s going to be a Coming-of-Age Road Trip. These first two episodes definitely felt like an extended prologue, and I’m curious to see what elements the show will bring into the story proper, and definitely excited to see how.

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Maria the Virgin Witch ep 2: Maria continues to surprise as this episode digs into the issue of theological morality and continues to paint a bleak and grounded picture of the Hundred Years War. It also has a bunch of gay panic and anal sex jokes this episode, but you can’t win em’ all I guess. I suppose for full disclosure I should note that I am an atheist, and while I think Maria’s depiction of Catholicism is largely a straw man, I do tend to agree with it’s larger points about religion. But that’s a post for a different day. I said in my Winter preview that I suspected the show would eventually have to punish Maria for her naive hero complex, but I’m honestly kind of surprised just how quickly the show has delivered on that. I like that the show characterizes maria as a summoner, using legendary monsters to do the dirty work for her; and when Michael shows up and forces Maria into action herself, she almost loses control of the situation and is easily trounced by Michael one-on-one. It’s an elegant illustration of the weak points in Maria’s philosophy. She’s willing to resort to violence to end violence, but not by her own hands, and on a scale that succeeds only in inflating Maria’s ego. She has no power to enact any real change with her own hands, and so her unwavering dedication to to her ideals is largely self-serving.

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Durarara x2 ep 2: After what was largely a re-introductory episode last week, this episode of DRRR dives headlong into what are likely to be this arc’s major conflicts. Mikado’s inability to control The Dollars has finally started to hit close to home when a new underclassmen immediately pegs him as one of the gang’s high-ranking members(though he has no idea just how high). That same underclassmen later has a run-in with the eccentric Orihara twins, who are also attending Mikado’s school as freshmen. Anri has a run-in with Shrinra’s father in the middle of what seems like a not-so-on-the-level business deal. And Shizuo Home Run BatsBenches a mysterious man across town, who is stumbled upon by both of the Orihara twins along with with Celty’s lost paycheck. So yeah, lotsa plotty-plot in this episode, as is typical of DRRR. But the real meat of this show is how those plotlines intertwine and build on each other. The building blocks seem like they’re pretty obvious at this point, but DRRR has a ridiculous amount of pieces to play with, so it’s really anyone’s guess at this point. The twins are pretty fun characters, Celty and Shinra are adorable as always, and even Anri’s new gimmick was kind of a welcome addition. I’m not sure how I feel about The Dollars plot thread, in relation to some of the bigger pieces, but I’m totally down whatever this arc has up its sleeve.

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Yatterman Night ep 2: I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about this episode as the premier, but it was still a fun little adventure. Leopard and the gang are as endearing as ever, the brief glimpses we got of the Yatter Kingdom certainly paint an intriguing picture. It’s definitely not the shining utopia that Leopard read about in her books. In fact, it looks an awful lot like her own little island, and the residents don’t seem all that pleased about their supposedly heroic overlords. I like that the episode is basically structured like a whacky caper-gone-wrong along the lines of a typical Team Rocket scheme or While E. Coyote ploy. It works both as a platform for humor and somber reflection on how monumental Leopard’s quest really is. Not everything in this episode worked for me, and I’m not quite sure where it’s going with the end of episode reveal, but the show is definitely unique. And that counts for something.

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