First of all, sorry about the late post and also the missing post from last week. But it’s been kind of a crazy fucking month for me! My home team won the Super Bowl, my entire state has been basically crippled by record snowfall, I’ve had to temporarily move out of my room because of water damage, and for my birthday I got a winning lottery ticket. It’s a wonder I managed to even catch up on shows at all this week. And even then, new episodes are popping up as I type this. Don’t they know I’m behind enough as it is?!
Anyways, it’s mid-season! Which means it’s time to arbitrarily rank shows based on half-completed evaluations! So rather than listing shows in the meaningless order I happened to type them up in on the first week, this week they’ll be in order from best to worst. With the obvious caveat that I don’t think any of the shows I’m still watching are actually “bad”. If I’ve stuck with them this long, they’re probably doing things mostly-right, but some contenders are obviously stronger than others or resonate more strongly with me. On with the breakdown!
YuriKuma Arashi ep 6: After YuriKuma’s somewhat rocky start, I think it’s safe to say that the show has since elevated itself to the level of Ikuhara’s other projects. This episode opens with Naked Lesbian Storytime and ends with Fanatical Horror-Cult Flower-Burning, exemplifying and unifying YuriKuma’s beautiful array of oddly disparate visual motifs. But it also succeeds in both fleshing out Sumika, and poignantly moving the story into its second act. The storybook segment serves as an all-too-obvious parallel to the story proper, and offers up the ultimate solution to the show’s main thematic conflict. In order to not give up on love, in order to embrace your true feelings, you must first destroy your own self. Not literally of course, and not even in the strictest figurative sense, either. The “self” that the girls must overcome to move beyond the constructed societal barriers that divide them is their projected self-image. The facades that they’ve adopted in order to be “invisible”. With Kureha nearly broken by the Invisible Storm, and Ginko unmasked and injured, now seems about as good a time as any for the girls to abandon their place in the herd. It’s time to Revolutionize the World and share the Fruit of Fate, while Kaoru’s mysterious bedfellow looms in the shadows. Dis gonna be good.
Maria the Virgin Witch ep 5: This show’s odd juxtaposition between ruminations on religion, coming-of-age historical fantasy, and wacky sex-comedy continues to somehow maintain its incredibly precarious equilibrium. This episode manages to segue from more jokes about Maria’s sex life and her childish naivete, to a Game of Thrones storyline. Focusing almost exclusively on Joseph’s mercenary friend, who gets himself roped into a duel-to-the-death after a drunken one-night stand with the wife of an angry knight. And while most of this conflict is generally tangential to Maria herself, it nonetheless offers a necessary shift away from Maria’s perspective. Galfa occupies the tumultuous middle-ground between Maria and the Church. He doesn’t fight because he’s a pious crusader, or a nobleman with a stake in the conflict; Galfa is just fighting make a living, literally. He’s not good or bad, he’s just a regular working shmoe. And for all her good intentions, this episode makes it very clear that Maria’s interference is not an absolute good. At the very least, she’s seriously disrupting the livelihood of the people who have come to depend on the conflict.
Your Lie in April ep 17: I was pretty worried about how this show was going to make use of Nagi, but this episode more or less managed to justify her existence. Her initial introduction as a brocon mirror to Kousei felt both graceless and redundant, but with Kaori and Tsubaki largely out of commission for this run of the story, it was actually a pretty smart idea to give Kousei someone else to bounce off of. Because Nagi and Kousei are so similar, it forces Kousei into a position where he has to face his own conflicts head-on. How can he tell Nagi to pour her feelings into her music, when he won’t even face his own? This was a pretty great episode with a lot of strong character work, even for most of the secondary cast like Hiroko and Watari. Everything seems to be approaching the boiling point for Kimiuso, and I can only imagine that Kaori’s increasingly inevitable departure is going to be the spark on the giant emotional powderkeg. If nothing else, it should make for some very pretty fireworks.
Log Horizon ep 18: One of Log Horizon’s undeniable strengths is in its ensemble cast. Log Horizon has a diverse and adaptable set of actors, which allows for the show to come at its narrative throughlines from any number of angles. From Shiroe’s chessmaster politicking, to William Massachusetts and his rousing games-as-identity monologue, to Akatsuki’s adventures in Girl Power and Friendship. And this weeks episode once again lines up its pieces for yet another stand-out character moment. Isuzu confides in Rudy that even her father, who she looked up to as a hero, could only ever manage a career as a studio musician. A fact that weighs heavily on Isuzu, convinced that she doesn’t possess even close to the amount of talent that her father had. Isuzu has essentially resigned herself to the fact that while music is her passion, it will never be anything more than that. Rudy attempts to cheer her up by explaining that for the People of the Land, all of music consists entirely of the original 42 songs that comprised the game’s BGM. Which, as an aside, is another great example of Log Horizon’s graceful worldbuilding. Isuzu’s music is not only new music for them, it’s an entirely new experience. Unfortunately, this revelation only leads Isuzu deeper into a spiral of self-pity. She asks to be left alone, leading to some of the most achingly purposeful shots in the series so far. Rudy can only look down at Isuzu, a pronounced dutch angle emphasizing his confusion, at an utter loss for words for probably very first time since his character was introduced. It’s painfully effective to see characters that care so much for each other be totally unable to understand one another.
Durarara x2 ep 5: Things are definitely moving in DRRR now, as this episode we’re introduced to what seems to be the main antagonistic force of the arc. Rokujou “Rocchi” Chikage, leader of a Saitama-based biker gang, has a bone to pick with the dollars. Though I seriously doubt it’s actually that simple, as nothing in DRRR ever is. The real question is who actually set Rokujou on the warpath in the first place. Aoba’s certainly not on the up-and-up, and Izaya’s opening monologue still puts him firmly in the game. There’s certainly no shortage of characters that would benefit from a restarted gang-war, or with personal grudges against the dollars. We also get a couple other new faces this episode; An adorable loli with a vendetta against Shizuou(no surprise there), and a mysterious biker-assassin that seems to be targeting Celty(and has clearly not done her homework).
Parasyte ep 18: This episode marks the end for Tamura-san, and a new beginning for Shinichi. As the pair are surrounded by police, Tamura demonstrates her newfound humanity in a very unparasitely act of self-sacrifice. While the act confounds Migi, Tamura’s selflessness brings a flood of memories as well as tears back to Shinichi. Motherhood has always been a common thread in Parasyte, a companion theme to Shinichi’s coming-of-age story, but this is probably the first moment in the show when the two have ever really come together in a meaningful way. Beyond being a thematic touchstone for the series, this was also a sharp turning point for the plot. Among Tamura’s final confessions are several tidbits of information likely to mark the beginning of the show’s endgame. The first one being that Tamura admits parasites don’t actually need to consume humans to survive, and the second is her remark about the parasites being the “children” of humankind. The former certainly changes the relationship parasites have with humans in a fundamental way, and the latter seems to be deliberately invoking the show’s themes of parenthood and adolescence. There’s a chance this story may yet have a peaceful Happy End for everyone.
Rolling Girls ep 5: It’s actually a bit sad to leave Always Comima behind, but this new story has set off with a pretty literal bang. I have a feeling the restaurant versus motorcycle-gang gimmicks of the two warring districts would make way more sense if I actually knew anything about their real-world counterparts, but I guess there’s no helping that. As it stands, they’re still interesting enough to get behind sans context, but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing the Big Joke somewhere. As per usual, Rolling Girls’ greatest strength seems to be in its small details. Like Chiaya passively attracting wildlife and also being the only one to notice that Himeko’s koala accessory is actually a real koala, or the Mie Motors vice-captain speaking in a garbled mix of Japanese and motorcycle revving. Though I think the most impressive was just how much the show manages to convey about Himeko and her father’s relationship only through body language and shot framing. It’s pretty obvious that Himeko’s problem is self-confidence and not actual craftsmanship, stemming from a father that just doesn’t know how to be open with his own daughter. Last arc’s conflict was largely a gag setup as an excuse for a plot, while this one seems to be a genuinely emotional dramatic arc tied into the show’s big themes of family and adolescence. And there’s also a Romeo & Juliet thing going on between Himeko and the Mie Motors captain, because nothing says Rebellious Misunderstood Daughter like dating the leader of the rival biker-gang.
Yatterman Night ep 5: YatterNoct continues to be endearing its own strange way, evening out at a steady “pretty good”. This episode’s contrast between wacky super sentai show and melancholy dystopian adventure was probably the most extreme it’s ever been, culminating in a Giant Robot Sumo Battle for the coveted prize of “one sheep and a surprising amount of pocket change”. It was genuinely heartwarming when Doronbow makes their grand entrance to protest the Yattermen and their underhanded tactics. Which really speaks volumes about how well the show has managed to sell the emotional weight of its silly world. The one problem I had with this episode was the two-joke guest character for this episode, who was actually kind of annoying rather than funny. YatterNoct’s humor has always been kind of childish, but the running gag about Sumo Kid having to constantly pee because he’s out in the snow half-naked all the time was really only clever the first two or three times.