So, what do we have this week? A little more on Sakura Quest vs. Shirobako (and why I think Sakura has improved greatly this week). Some thoughts on which shows stand where at midseason. (Time for the mid-season gut check!) Plus the usual weekly thoughts on what I’m watching…
Hit the jump and let’s dive right into it!
Just as a reminder, shows that I am watching are in bold, shows my wife and I are watching together are in bold italics.
Man, sitting here on a Monday morning trying to write… I make notes in my head as the week progresses, and comments on Twitter and other blogs, and it’s all a mish mash come Monday. Note to self: Make notes. And get a second cup of coffee.
When it comes to dropping shows, I generally have three milestones. First, obviously the first ep. Maybe it doesn’t catch my attention, or it just looks bad, or whatever. Then there’s the three-ep rule, to give a show a chance to establish itself. Finally there’s the midseason gut check, a close look to make sure I’m fooling myself by simply having fallen into the habit of watching. This week, it’s time for that gut check.
It’s not a perfect system, after all I watched drek like Dimension W and Big Order all the way to the end thinking/hoping they might get better… But generally it works.
That being said, let’s jump into the shows!
Anonymous Noise – Ep 6
We finally see Momo’s view of the love triangle – and why he’s unwilling to face Nino/Alice… Taken on a guilt trip by his mother, he sold the songs he’d written for Nino to raise cash to repay the family’s debts. In his eyes, whoring himself out has made him unworthy of her. Which actually is kinda original, a refreshing change from the usual reasons for avoiding a childhood friend.
But speaking of change, Nino/Yuzu’s side of the story was much less believable. Did they think that nobody would notice that in NO hurry’s lineup had changed? The crowd that was there were certainly pumped by Alice’s (ahem) “unconventional” singing style, but you can bet the homebodies were getting setting Twitter and the chans ablaze. It’ll be interesting to see how (if) they deal with that.
Midseason thoughts: A very frustrating show, one that always seems to be just on the brink of breaking out. That is, when it doesn’t seem to equally on the brink of complete collapse into mediocrity. Keeper, mostly because I can’t tear my eyes away from the developing train wreck.
Alice & Zorokou – Ep 6
Honestly, this episode delivered everything I’d been hoping for ever since I first read about Alice. Charming slice-of-life informed by science fiction, with an emphasis on humanity. And it wouldn’t have worked without the lengthy prologue.
I particularly liked the way they introduced Alice to the concept of family… She had ‘friends’ and ‘family’ at the Lab, but they were forced upon her for their own ends (though inhuman as she was at the time, she didn’t grasp that). Now, she’s learning the value of a real family – one where the people care for each other rather than use each other. Equally, she’s also learning to live more like a human and to not rely on her powers.
Midseason thoughts: I’m not entirely certain where they’re going to go from here, but I’m willing to wait and see. Even though I wasn’t entirely happy with the bait-and-switch prologue, they’ve told a decent story. Keeper.
Atom: The Beginning – Ep 5
From how this episode went, it looks like the odd divergence of the last couple of episodes may be over and they’re headed back to their main theme – the greater relationships between humanity and robots. On one hand, when the bad guys from last ep screw up the computerized traffic control system we see what can happen when things go bad. But by Six’s actions, we also see what a powerful tool for good they can be.
Very interesting though… the Bad Guys from eps 4-5 were ultimately stopped not by the Good Guys – but by the Bad Guys from eps 1-2. And make no mistake, I think the Bad Guys from 1-2 are indeed Bad Guys, even if their motives are obscure in this ep.
Atom‘s OP is honestly my favorite this season, though Alice & Zoroku‘s is a close second.
Midseason thoughts: Atom started out strong, then lost steam and went astray. Maybe now that they’re coming back to the core of the story things will get better. Keeping with crossed fingers.
Attack on Titan 2 – Ep 7
Long on action, long on Eren’s constipated internal monologues, short on plot advancement. Meh.
Midseason thoughts: When it’s been good, it’s been very good. When it’s been bad, it’s been awful. Still gonna watch though.
My Hero Academia 2 – Ep 7
A pretty good episode overall. All For One appears to be much more than previously advertised… And I wonder why All Might was so dismissive of what Midoryia saw or thinks he saw? I think this is the first time he’s tried to mislead/misdirect him. Todoroki’s portion of the episode, with his massive over reaction to his father was very well done. I found it interesting that he was willing to use his father’s power – to undo the results of using his mother’s power.
Karandi at 100 Words also has some interesting observations.
Midseason thoughts: Just like in Season One, MHA blows hot and cold, often mixing too much exposition with too little action. But the characters are well drawn and the character beats well executed. Overall, still well worth continuing to watch.
Saekano – Ep 5
This episode is all about trust… Particularly Tomoya’s trust in Eriri and Utaha-senpai’s attempts to weaken it. Seriously, is she a meddlesome, manipulative, and controlling so-and-so or what? Despite this, Eriri’s pride as a creative won’t let her fail (and the end of the ep implies this comes at a cost).
The scene where Eriri was visualizing the characters really hit home. As a creative myself, the moments when something hits and you know, you know…
The voice over was a fascinating contrast, while the characters were pouring out their hearts… Eriri was giving voice to her deepest desire, that Tomoya recognizes her. Not that uncommon in harem anime, but powerfully expressed none the less due to the connection with her art. Ultimately, we create with our hearts.
Midseason thoughts: Not quite as good as the first season, when everything was fresh and new and lacking a little bit of the urgency… But still pretty good overall. They’re hitting some nice character beats, and when all else fails there’s always Megumi. Keeper.
Sakura Quest – Ep 6
Last week I was talking about Shirobako and comparing and contrasting it to Sakura. In the comments, Remy Fool asked if I thought Sakura Quest would be as rewatchable… And I answered honestly, “I don’t know”. Out of curiosity I went back and looked at some of the stuff I wrote back then (as comments on Mage in a Barrel), and by turns I praised it and panned it, so there’s no help there. The big thing I didn’t like, and still generally don’t is
Monster Roadblock of the Week Weak format. It’s a pretty common format, and in retrospect isn’t as bad as it seemed at the time. Sakura is going down the same road, which is annoying even if it is inevitable, but without quite the same strong character beats.
Which leads me to this week’s ep… Over on Twitter I said that I thought it had taken its first real step forward this week but I couldn’t articulate why. (Especially in light of how critical I’ve been of it.) After a few days thought, it finally hit me – so far Sakura Quest has been so danged claustrophobic. Almost all of the action has taken place in offices, homes, shops, and narrow city streets. All the interaction to date has been among the same core set of ill-defined characters. By the original setup Yoshino should be the center of things (like Aoi or Ohana), but so far she’s been the least among equals. (With the exception of last week’s art installation, she’s mostly reacted rather than acted.) All that changed this week with the introduction of the film crew and their interactions with the core cast, plus getting out and about the village.
When you haven’t defined a character, it’s hard to define others by relationship to her… While the film crew are largely stock characters, they’re known quantities against which the core characters can be measured. Some background characters are settling into the same role – not a bad thing as they can serve as ongoing points of reference. Reacting to the short term and immediate goals of the demands of the film staff serves much the same role. Concrete and short term actions give us a much better idea of the characters than ‘fighting against fog’, the long term and nebulous goal of bringing life back to the town.
Getting out and about the town also plays to P.A. Work’s core strengths, not just their lush backgrounds, but their ability to create a sense of place. We’ve seen so much of the cramped and abandoned business district, and now we’ve so much more of the living (if fading) parts of town. The (too brief!) scene with the taiko drummers gives us a better sense of Manoyama as ongoing place filled with daily life.
OK, all that being said… They really made us feel for poor Maki this week, and her reclusiveness is much more understandable. (Props to Remy Fool for making clear what I’d missed – Maki is from Manoyama. Saved me from making an ass of myself on my own blog.) She left home to make it big, and slunk home having failed to do so. Now she’s at a crisis point – step up to the plate and swing even though she might fail, or walk away forever.
Shiori is the interesting one… What’s going on in her head? Why is she so unwilling to see that particular place burn? She found other places and seems willing to let them burn, so it’s not just a simple desire to preserve what was. There’s a connection there – childhood friend or relative.
Midseason thoughts: Before this week my thoughts on Sakura weren’t very charitable, especially given that we have eighteen odd eps stretching out before us. But my confidence has gone up markedly. So, tentative keeper.
SukaSuka – Ep 5
Finally, we get the story of what happened at Island 15, and find out by inference that the military has signed off on Willem’s new system of fighting rather than simple kamikaze. (Though Ctholly has a bad case of survivor guilt, which is not surprising given how she’s been conditioned since birth.) Then they go off on wandering another travelogue of the sights of Corna di Luce… Followed by Willem breaking his passive role (just a few minutes after he’d reiterated his philosophy of nonviolence and non-interference). We ended with Willem and Ctholly once more in an emotional standoff, before he was diverted by what seems to a name (and baggage) from his past.
Honestly, I’m conflicted over SukaSuka… There’s some good bones underneath, but they’re obscured by bad pacing and constant zigging and zagging all over the landscape. The latest addition (political drama) on top of the existing interpersonal drama and Ctholly’s increasing issues does not bode well.
Midseason thoughts: SukaSuka is now on double secret probation. If they don’t improve in two weeks – overboard it goes.
Tsuki ga Kirei – Ep 6
Wow… Our two young sweethearts make real progression in their relationship, but they also get some real kicks in the teeth.
The part where they pinky swore to support each other, and then suddenly realized that was dangerously close to holding hands and looked shyly away from each other was both funny and very touching.
This was followed by less happiness. Akane loses her race, and fails to qualify to advance because of her poor time. (Because her head isn’t in the game.) Kotarou is told he’s not cut out for writing great literature, but hey! the publishing house is willing to exploit him as a light novel author. (I just wanted to punch that slick jackass in face.) But Akane and Kotaru double down – committing again to their dreams and each other. Honestly, I half expected her to reject him and back down, especially since she knows Chinatsu is ready to pounce.
That ending scene though… Poor Akane to face such an innocent question from Chinatsu when she’s so insecure to start with.
Also funny, the offscreen noises of Akane’s father gulping something down (a beer?) after the revelation that she has a boyfriend.
Over on Crunchy, Nick Creamer writes a very cool piece about how the Tsuki uses framing and presentation to control the moods presented, check it out – Tsukigakirei’s Romance of Distance.
Midseason thoughts: At first wasn’t entirely sure about Tsuki, the slow pacing was frustrating. But episode by episode it’s really grown on me… more subtle and well executed than I first gave it credit for. A keeper for sure – and far and away out front as the contender for AOTS.
Twin Angel Break – Ep 6
OK, there was the squick a couple of episodes back, but despite the extreme stupidity (even by the standards of a “paint by numbers” anime) of last ep, they appeared to have gotten over it. Then came this week… They’ve swapped to individual attacks and they open with an older male attacking a middle school girl (echoing the squick of ep 4). Strike 1. Then some rather disturbing and suggestive BDSM references… Strike 2. And the double down with another such set… Strike 3.
Midseason thoughts: I’m generally tolerant, but something about the whole direction they’re going (and I haven’t even mentioned the Angel counting the seconds since “Onii-chan” contacted her)… Dropped.
Also, last weekend for some reason I ended up marathoning Girls und Panzer. I need something mindless to watch, and it fit the bill.
And thaat’s all for this week folks! Drop a comment with your thoughts on this week’s episodes or the season so far!