Massively late, but here we go with comments and thoughts over the last few weeks as well as mid-season reviews!
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.
I’m going to break from my usual routine of just putting the shows in alphabetical order and rank them more-or-less by how I feel about them here at mid-season. The ranking is very rough because in truth there’s a clear leader (Abyss), and then the middle of the pack (with some standing out more than others), then a couple trailing well behind.
Made in Abyss, Eps 5-8
When you’re as behind in writing about as masterful a series as Abyss as I am, I don’t even know where to begin. It’s pretty much impossible to simply sum the last four eps in any simple fashion…
So, I’ll just swing into midseason thoughts and try to be more coherent than “JUST WOW!”
Especial praise goes out for their worldbuilding. While mostly avoiding the worst of telling rather than showing, they’ve managed to build up a cohesive and coherent world that we’re experiencing alongside the characters. The pairing of Riko (who is relatively more experienced) and Reg (the innocent and stranger in a world he never made) has been powerfully effective in this respect. Yet, Reg remains his own character rather than just being the audience insert. Atelier Emily has a fascinating post on this topic – I, ROBOT — EXPLORING MADE IN ABYSS THROUGH REG. She writes of how, despite being a robot, Reg is a very human character and an integral part of the story rather than being a mere robotic sidekick.
I think my favorite character here is Ozen though… Despite having lost so much of her humanity, she retains enough spark and love for her apprentice to do her best by her apprentice’s daughter (for a second time). The whole relationship between her and Riko is much more one of stern-but-loving grandmother than of a Master discharging her obligations to her student’s student.
Also check out:
- The Canipa Effect published this video on the connection between and the influence of Studio Ghibli on Made in Abyss’s background art. It’s good stuff, and talks about the influence of background art. Check it out!
Princess Principal, Eps 5-8.
Midseason thought: Another ‘WOW’ show. The PV’s made it look like it was going to be nothing more than (yet another) moe girls action show along the lines of Girls un Panzer or Strike Witches… But it’s turned out to be deeper than that. There’s no lack of action to be sure, but there’s also well done characterization and they don’t shy away from addressing the class issues that are usually ignored in shows set in the Victorian/Steampunk milieu. Episode 7 has been noted in that respect, but the groundwork was really laid in Episode 6 as they were discussing how people came to work the dead-end jobs in the morgue. (Pun unintentional.)
Two episodes are worthy of special mention though… The first of these is Episode 5, introducing Chise (this season’s unquestioned Best Girl). In some ways, the story (kill the man who killed my father) was a bit hackneyed, especially since they told the George Lucas/Star Wars version. But I found that tying it into an actual historical event (the Boshin War ) to be a nice touch, both from the literary and the worldbuilding points of view.
Episode 8 however is the Big Reveal – confirming the fan theory that Ange and the Princess have in fact swapped identities in the past. Permanently. What was particularly striking was whose story they chose to tell. The usual thing is to follow the Royal-become-Commoner as she learns to deal with the Real World and how things work outside their insular and privileged world. (There’s a certain amount of political statements in these things.) PriPri takes a different tack in following the Commoner-become-Royal. Normally, it’s simply assumed that such a life is an easy thing, an endless round of parties, amusements, and diversions. Not so it turns out, not when your life absolutely depends on not being discovered. Not so when you must master a myriad skills and a huge body of knowledge to avoid discovery…
Knowing what we know now… This scene from Ep 4 takes on special poignancy.
Re:Creators, Eps 17-19
Slowly, one by one, Altair’s allies have been stripped from her. By the end of Ep 19, she stands alone. But when last seen, she was as snarkily confident as ever… Does she have a trick up her sleeve? The battle is dragging on a bit long, three eps left go, but so far they’ve kept things moving a brisk pace and kept the surprises coming. So, . We’ve still got Sota’s Surprise waiting in the wings too.
The real story of the last few eps however, is the relationship between Created and Creator… When Blitz meets Suruga face to face, he rebels against what she’s done to him and shoots her in the gut. Despite that, she displays the real power of a Creator to manipulate reality and brings in his re-incarnated daughter… Resulting in his capitulation and switching sides. She’s removed the source of his anger against him with a few strokes of her pen.
Alicetelia and Takarada’s (her Creator) story takes a different tack. He watches in horror as she sacrifices herself in an (ultimately futile) bid to stop Altair, and when she dies…
The bond between Creator and Created is so strong he snaps and cries and howls as though he’s lost his child. In a sense, that’s exactly what’s happened. It was heartrending to watch.
The next story is Selsia, Charon, and Takashi (who we know openly regards her as if she was his daughter)… As Charon attacks, Takashi is dismayed because he’s behaving exactly as written. When Selisia sacrifices herself to stop Charon and strip Altair of her last ally, he reacts as any parent would – and begs her to stop and save herself, regardless of the cost to the world.
Hm, didn’t realize until I wrote all that how much the parent/child bond played a role in all three stories…
As a side note, I watched Abyss and Re:Creators on Saturday – a heavy feels fest. Then PriPri slammed me broadside in the feels on Sunday. H*ll of a weekend when I was all wore out from the Fair.
My Hero Academia, Eps 18-19.
The episode “Aftermath” was a bit sobering… In the conversation with Tsuragamae Kenji (the Hosu police chief) we got a glimpse of some of the hypocrisy underlying the system. He seemed as much interested in maintaining the status quo and avoiding bad publicity as anything else. This resulted in both the spirit and the letter of the law being bent, mostly to the student’s benefit. I suppose one could argue that it was for the greater good, since otherwise some very promising future Heros would have their careers cut short, but I’m not entirely happy with that.
The “Internships” episode was mostly written to give fan favorite Tsuyu Asui some screen time, and I’m OK with that. Especially since they also used this episode to address various approaches to a question central to MHA‘s themes – “what is a hero anyway”? Everyone has their own answer, from the conventional (personified by Midoriya and Lida) to the base (Uraraka), to personal aggrandizement (Bakugo).
I particularly enjoyed the reference made by the main villain’s name.
Midseason thoughts: This season… I don’t know what to quite think of it. It started out with the (relatively) light-hearted Sports Festival arc, but now it’s shifting tone to something (relatively) darker and more mature. In some ways, I think this is a good thing as it mirrors Midoryia’s growth. On the other hand, it marks a change in the nature of the show, something not all shows handle gracefully. (Though the continued interest and high sales of the manga would seem to indicate that it does.)
Mostly, I find it interesting because of the history of American comics which MHA is inspired by. In some ways, MHA’s story arc is recreating and re-telling the history of American comics. Specifically I’m speaking of the Bronze Age of Comics – where the optimism and bravura which had previously characterized comic books began to diminish. This era saw the rise of the anti-hero, and more and more comics addressing more mature themes and socially relevant issues. One could say that, in universe, the questions raised by Hero Killer are of the same nature.
In that vein, a couple of other bloggers have taken a swing at thinking on the same issues – they’re well worth checking out:
- Karandi over at 100 Word Anime has some interesting things to say about heroes and villains and what they represent.
- Kieko also has an interesting point – how does Stain’s ideology stack up against the more ‘usual’ conceptions of being a hero?
Tsuredere Children, Eps 6-9.
No comment this week, as with past weeks it remains simply charming as all hell. (Like Tsuki ga Kirei last season, sometimes it’s harder to review the simple shows on a weekly basis.)
Midseason Thoughts: Before the season, Tsuredere wasn’t even on my radar. I tossed it into my queue mostly because the description sounded vaguely interesting. But it’s turned out to be a pretty good show, a nice blend of comedy and drama. Sometimes I get a bit confused as to the history of a segment’s couple because of the huge ensemble cast, but each segment stands enough alone that doesn’t actually make much difference. It’s actually pretty unusual in that respect, as anthology shows typically either require you to keep up or the segments are completely standalone.
Sakura Quest, Eps 19-22.
Honestly… a less than stellar arc overall, once again the girls are victorious without ever having encountered any serious setbacks or even making the viewer feel that they worked all that hard. On the flipside, they are finally learning that they have to work within and with the community (echoing the preceding Warabiya village mini-arc). I think we’re seeing the outlines of how the Mizuchi Festival is going to play out.
I loved Maki’s arc just to pieces. She went to Tokyo (I presume), gave it her best shot – and came home bloodied but unbowed. Yeah, yeah, the whole “went to the big city only to find what they wanted as in the small town all along” trope is way over done… But they didn’t play it that simply or just hand it to her. Maki had to work her butt off in the small town to find what it was she was looking for.
Midseason Thoughts: Overall, the second cour is a vast improvement over the first. We know a lot more about the main characters and the Manomaya, so much of what’s happening makes sense. This also lets them flesh out the secondary characters by comparison and contrast to the Furious Five. The small-scale narrative flows at least a little more smoothly.
But it still falls short in a couple of key areas. One is that it’s reverted to the pat two episode arc format that characterized the first cour. Second, unlike Shirobako, they aren’t really doing a good job of connecting the smaller arcs to the larger narrative. (Hey, I’ve gone weeks without comparing the two, give me a break.) They still feel somewhat scattershot and disconnected as the Furious Five dash from one short-term goal to the next. On one hand, it’s a good thing because the hunt for the Treasures isn’t all-dominating. On the other, it just doesn’t seem like they’re making much progress in the preparations for the upcoming festival. And just do the guys sitting around at the Tourist Bureau actually do to earn their keep?
Ep 21-22… And then they toss it all away and phone it in. Quite the disappointment. There’s some ham handed pretense of Festival preps, but it mostly serves to (once again) highlight the Queen’s continued ignorance of the town. We get it, as the outsider she serves as something of an audience insert… but do you really have to beat us over the head with it? Erika’s story manages to shake even the unflappable Shiori’s confidence in the town, but that goes away as soon as we’ve once again been beaten over the head with the hopelessness of saving the town. Though the Quest for the Treasures was a bit overdone, there were some nice bits looking at the lives of those who have chosen to stay.
- Over on Crunchyroll, Wilhelm Donko (who I’ve linked to before) has two neat pieces on the real life places that inspired the anime’s depiction of Monoyama.
Read them here: Part 1. Part 2.
Konbini Kareshi, Eps 5-9.
With Eps 5-6, we appear to have finally reached the end of Honda and Mami’s arc. They’ve established something of a relationship, though it’s tenuous and she’s still holding a bit back. They didn’t really do much with clues they shoved in our face about their parents and home lives though.
With Ep 7… we’re off in a new direction despite not really closing out the previous arc and leaving a number of threads dangling. All season, they’ve been hinting at Haruki and Miharu’s relationship and now the narrative brings them into focus. Or more correctly, they’re following the pattern of concentrating on the guy and not revealing much about the girl. This is a huge problem here as they don’t really add anything new to the narrative of “lost childhood friend” they’ve been harping on all season. They do give us a quick scene hinting at Miharu’s illness, and then frustratingly leave us on a cliffhanger as he’s about to confess (finally!) and she starts weeping. And not of the “oh-god-he’s-about-to-confess” variety either… deep, heartrending weeping hinting of something deeper and darker. That’s a whole lot of drama that’s not been really foreshadowed so far.
Midseason thoughts: Despite some pacing problems, I enjoyed the first (Honda and Mami) arc well enough. I’m kind of apprehensive about how the rest will go since they’ve spent so #$@!$ much time on the “lost childhood friend” angle that it’s hard to see where they actually intend to go.
Episode 8 was all side story… Not much to see, move along.
Episode 9 was all about setting up conflict between Honda and Mami – over her parents and how strictly they control her life and how unquestioningly she follows them. Rather uneven even by Konbini‘s loose standards, but believable. This is backed up by hints of a brewing conflict between Honda and his own parents, but no clear explanation of what it’s all about.
You might have noticed the lack of mention of Haruki and Miharu’s relationship… that would be because it’s been shoved into the background, again. It’s seriously annoying how much screen time it’s gotten, but how little it’s actually been covered.
Love & Lies, Eps 6-9
Mid Season thoughts: On one hand we have Yukari and Misaki who are basically in love with idea that they’re in love (with a largely internally created vision of the other). On the other hand, we have Yukari and Ririna, who are getting to know each other and are slowly learning to be concerned with each other’s feelings and falling in love with the actual other. Resolving these conflicts isn’t happening because Yukari has turned into the stereotypical obtuse harem protagonist. On the gripping hand, we have the Chekhov’s Pistol personified in Yusuke – which they spent most of Ep 8 setting up and then steadfastly avoiding dealing with.
And that’s increasingly a problem here. They keep setting up things, such as Misaki’s tsundere moment at the end of Ep 7, and then promptly dropping them to hare off after another theme.
Love & Lies started out strongly, but now it’s basically lost it’s way. Despite its early strength I don’t have much confidence that it can recover in the remaining episodes. They’ve simply wasted too much time. It started out as Scum’s Wish, but it’s turned into Seiren.
I think my opinion on the show (after ep 9) can be summed up by the tweet I sent…
They’re simply tossing stuff out to keep Yukari from forming a meanigful relationship, because that ends the show right there.
On hold, partly from lack of time, partly from lack of interest. Insufficient material for a proper mid-season review (also partly due to the late premiere and the small number of eps watched so far).
Restaurant to Another World, Ep 6.
Honestly, I think I’ve given Isekai Shokou plenty of chances… And it’s pretty consistently failed to ‘wow’ me. This episode started off pretty well, looking like it was going to give us some insight on Aletta’s character and backstory, and it very grudgingly delivered the bare minimum. The balance of the ep was taken up with interaction between Nekoya’s characters… but not in a good way. Nothing much but them rotely arguing over what was the best food (their favorite of course). Poor Lionel and Gaganpo didn’t even get that, they just got to repeat their stock phrases. Stick a fork in me, I’m done with it.
Dropped with extreme prejudice.
In other news:
- The team over at For Great Justice has put up their midseason thoughts, covering a large number of shows, including many I’m not watching. Their write ups on Love & Lies and Sakura Quest are particularly interesting.