A few small notes before I begin. I said a few entries ago that you can expect a Psycho Pass wrap up colloquium soon, but due to RL constraints it’s probably not going to happen till mid-year break. Definitely still keen to do it, but realistically won’t have the time till then.
There’s also that Free thing happening (read: exploded on my twitter feed) so I thought I’d say a few words about it. As much as I find Japan’s views on masculinity refreshing compared to the ridiculous antiquated image still largely held in the West, I still have some attachment to aspects of the traditional masculine ideal that prevent me from really being keen on the image we get from Otome games and shows like Free. I’ll let a dialogue from the timeless Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing) speak for me here:
Beatrice: Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face! I had rather lie in the woolen.
Leonato: You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
Beatrice: What should I do with him? Dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him. Therefore I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his apes into hell.
Good ol’ Shakespeare. You can read a pretty good run-down of that scene (act 2, scene 1) here. Y’know, if you don’t feel like thinking.
Without further ado.
Red Data Girl 2-4
Amazingly, episode 2 was actually a big step up from episode one, and brought a halfway competent plot into things. Aspects of that episode were genuinely creepy, creepy like Another should have been. We’re given some idea of the overarching narrative, kind of like what episode 1 should have done.
So yeah, Red Data Girl, the plot is OK now, it’s just a pity that it all revolves around bizarre caricatures masquerading as people. It’s nice to see our main female protagonist get a little more forceful in episode 3, but she still has all the nuance and force of will of a wet sponge. Meanwhile our male protag is mildly associable but is only capable of communicating through shouting and melodramatic movements. Kind of like a Lelouch, but about a fifth as compelling.
Alas, ep 3 was back to being boring and uninspired. The whole drama with the familiar dude was dull and confused, and all the wonderful creepiness from ep 2 was gone. So yeah, this show surprised me by giving me an episode I solidly enjoyed. For that, I’ll stick with it for now.
The Devil is a Part-Timer! 4
Remember how last week I commented that why the Demon Lord isn’t, y’know, acting evil is the question that’s been hanging over this whole series? Well, The Devil is a Part-Timer decided to tackle that problem head-on, giving us some melodramatic backstory and having the Hero straight out ask “hey, how come you’re not being a dick?” Unfortunately, in all of this the writer forgot that these aren’t plotholes that could ever be filled, this was an unanswerable question written into the core premise of the narrative. The further the story stayed away from this, the better. I could use my imagination, pretend it was a piece of somewhat reductionist social commentary equating power and wealth to a dearth of empathy. I could pretend the story was saying that poverty and being forced to work hard to survive brings one closer to the fundamental human condition.
Now I get po-faced, silly drama about characters and issues I don’t give a toss about. Being light-hearted and avoiding the usual pitfalls of the genre were the main things this had going for it, taking a series in a more serious direction is not always for the best. I’ll give it a few more episodes to snap out of it and get back to its strengths before it gets dropped.
Oreimo S2 2-4
Welp, that happened. Thanks episode 4 for crushing my hopes that this show might one day be good again. I miss the days when I could at least pretend Oreimo was an earnest dialogue on fraternal responsibility. It’s the Bakemonogatari problem of slowly turning into exactly the shit you started out parodying. Parts of the first season were genuinely witty, and there was some pretty apt parody of the anime industry thrown in there. Now it’s just an otaku pandering mess.
I’m not dropping it, though. This has potential train-wreck entertainment value. That said, unfortunately they’ll probably engineer a way to return everything to the status quo and the show’ll just keep being boring instead of hilariously bad.
Attack on Titan/The Eotena Onslaught 4
I said last week that I only really enjoy this show when everything is completely #@&%$. Unfortunately this week’s episode didn’t get serious till right at the end, so we just got more of what we’ve been getting the past two episodes – fairly standard dark shounen character growth, giving everyone some hope to inevitably be smashed later, and some hit and miss attempts at levity. It’s not bad, it’s just average, only really coming alive when the Eotena themselves come into the picture.
My Youth Rom-Com SNAFU 4
Honestly, this show and The Devil is a Part-Timer are the very definition of mediocrity. What I said last week still applies. It’s occasionally funny, there’s some halfway competent character chemistry, and all round it’s nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. I’ll stick with it till it does something really offensive or the formula gets too tired.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet 4
After all my bitching about the last episode, this week brought us an episode I pretty much unambiguously liked. Surfing mecha and lesbian pirate queens really don’t suit the more contemplative atmosphere Gartantia has going most of the time. This week’s episode was pretty much straight out exploration of the culture differences between Ledo and the Gargantia fleet, and it was executed pretty flawlessly all round.
I’m starting to get some slight Sasami-san vibes. Ledo embodies the tireless, efficiency focused worker whose prime, if not sole goal is survival. In a way this is quite similar to the salaryman ideal, and it feels like the show is breaking down the issues with this mentality, much like Sasami-san broke down the “do your best” culture prevalent in other anime.
The Flowers of Evil 4
As a fan of the original manga I am greatly looking forward to the upcoming segments and seeing how this adaptation handles them. Thus far this has been pretty close to my ideal adaptation, and I can’t wait to see how it grows as the story expands and deepens. The dark, creepy atmosphere is still thick enough to cut with a knife, Kasuga is remaining simultaneously sympathetic and infuriatingly weak-willed, and Nakamura is single-mindedly compelling in her incomprehensible malevolence.
We’re being shown the fragility of high school social power structures, the dangers of idolisation and obsession with purity, and being given a vicious parody of the clean, idealised suburbia and high schools we’re used to seeing in anime. Kasuga’s childish arrogance and idealisation just keep resulting in him digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. I am relishing every second of it.