Ah, to fight or not to fight, that is the question. All round a pretty great week for the three main shows of the season, everything else, not so much, and editing Vietnam War era political figures’ faces onto generically pretty anime characters brought me no small degree of joy.
Let’s get into it.
Red Data Girl 7
Oof, all this melodrama over a damn horse. Mayura’s ridiculous attack to “test” Miyuki. The dumb politics of the Students Council. ARRRGGHHH. For chrissakes, Red Data Girl, pick a tone and damn well stick to it, don’t just schizophrenically jump around from plot point to plot point taking melodrama as a substitute for character arcs and plot threads we might actually give a damn about.
Are you a horror-thriller? A touching coming-of-age drama? An old-fashioned romance? A supernatural action show? An easy-going slice-of-life drama? No, you can’t be all of those at the same time and possibly hope for the individual elements to be engaging and coherent, all you’re providing is a confused, across-the-board mediocre piece of entertainment that hasn’t the slightest clue what it wants to say or what it wants to do.
The Devil is a Part-Timer! 7
Ok, the novelty is really wearing off, and at this point it feels like the show is just going through the motions. Your jokes weren’t that great to begin with, show, so repeating them sure as hell ain’t gonna help. We have yet another mysterious threat, another girl possibly crushing on the protagonist, though actually those two might be the same person, don’t know, don’t really care either.
Comedy relies heavily on subverting expectations and cathartic release to farcical situations, but this show has neither at the moment. For a while, it was cruising on the novelty of the premise and the humorous ironies it entailed, but those factors feel all but exhausted now.
Oreimo S2 7
I’d have trouble counting the number of times I laughed this episode, and maybe one of those times was with the show, rather than at it. Most of those times were me laughing at how pathetically effete and generally detestable Kyousuke has become. This is protagonist murder of an even higher magnitude than Nisemonogatari. Unlike Nisemonogatari, I was never particularly fond of Oreimo’s protagonist, but he was at least sympathetic. Hopelessly out of touch with his own sister, he grasped onto the sole possible bonding point he stumbled upon purely by chance. Sure, some of the bullets he took for Kirino probably weren’t, on consideration, entirely beneficial for either of them, and performed more out of a vague sense of duty, but at least he was somewhat courageous and decisive.
Ultimately though, what hurts his character is not his impotence or indecisiveness, hilarious as they may be, but the glaring inconsistencies in his character. It’s impossible to sympathise with someone whose actions and thoughts have as little connection to reality as a passing “how do you do?” What was originally set-up as a genuine desire to reconnect with his family is spiralling into a nightmarish incest plot that can’t even come out and be honest about it, and this episode he needs not one, but two different women to tell him he ought to give a love confession he received serious thought and to give the person a proper answer
Kasuga from the Flowers of Evil is weak, indecisive and effete, but he comes off as a hundred times more sympathetic because we get a real insight into his impetus and rationale, and the show itself never condones his thoughts or actions, in fact the whole thing plays out almost like a cautionary tale. Most importantly, Kasuga’s actions are consistent with what we’ve seen of him, and are based on judgements and biases we understand, even if we don’t agree with them.
Muromi-san on the Shore 7
Yep, a few pieces of enjoyably absurd humour, the star this week being watching mythical creatures eating poisonous mushrooms to get some kind of ecstatic high out of them. The awkward conversation with the Kappa was pretty amusing too. It’s still competent and that’s it. It’s funnier than The Devil is a Part-Timer, but that ain’t hard. I will say that part of its success is its willingness to be edgy, sexually and otherwise. Comedy thrives on taboo and farce, a lot of anime comedy would do well to realise this.
The Eotena Onslaught 7
This week’s ep was quite possibly my favourite so far. It walked the line between hope and despair quite well, and managed to avoid being predictable, which is important in a show like this, which relies heavily on the shock value. It’s particularly nice to see Mikasa fleshed out a little as a character, since she’s been pretty stoic and incomprehensible for the most part. Giving her a few chinks in her emotional armour helps us to sympathise a little, it’s hard to sympathise with a robot, after all. That said, if her motivation could be a little more interesting than devoting her life to Eren, that would be nice.
Subtlety is still the show’s biggest failing, as the above screencap demonstrates. People we’re meant to be rooting against have exaggerated expressions of cowardice, and I think it speaks volumes about anime’s general lack of self-confidence as an artistic medium. We can’t leave things ambiguous and let the audience make up their own minds, we have this culture of exaggeration, with bright red cheeks for blushing, contorted faces for anger, and generically ugly appearances for anyone we’re meant to be rooting against. It’d be easier for me to have confidence in these kinds of shows if I felt they had a little more confidence in themselves.
My Teenage RomCom SNAFU 7
You know, far be it from me to try and extract some common sense out of a light novel adaptation, but wouldn’t you think the popular, highly social kids would be generally more competent at dealing with people (even socially awkward people), than the loner, social outcasts? There are plenty of things wrong with people who obsess over the social contract, you don’t have to take away some of their strengths to show this. All in all this show is taking itself far too seriously, I much preferred it when they were dealing with stupid problems in stupid ways.
And Yukinoshita isn’t any less of a stuck-up, hypocritical, walking tragic-back-story-reveal-just-waiting-to-happen annoyance than she was when we started. Can we please just get her character arc over with so we can stop trying to make the audience feel sorry for her?
Valvrave the Liberator 6
Ok, I’m gonna divorce my ethical conceptions of this show from my base enjoyment for a moment. This show is legitimately entertaining, and yeah, because there’s a certain fascination in watching something this dumb take its horrible political ideas to an extreme, illogical conclusion. It’s train-wreck value, but who cares why if it’s damned entertaining? This is by no means a recommendation, but it’s worth remembering that mediocrity, blandness and taking the safe route are the worst sins of entertainment, not being offensive.
HOWEVER, it’s a fleeting, ephemeral sort of entertainment that I will forget about the moment I stop watching if they can’t create some relate-able characters or coherent plot elements I actually give a damn about. It’s the difference between going to the circus and reading a Tale of Two Cities.
Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet 7
I’m seeing a pattern with shows Urobuchi is involved in. I seem to enjoy the smaller, nuanced aspects of the storytelling a lot more than the overarching narrative. Psycho Pass’s social commentary was at its best when it was being told through the background elements and world-building, and it’s the small details in Gargantia I’m enjoying, much more so than its thinly veiled, push-button anti-hawk message. I like how Ledo’s state of dress seems to reflect his immersion in the culture of the Gargantia fleet, with him going back to full-body suit this episode as a reflection of his return to the soldier mentality. I enjoyed the subplot about Ledo getting a job and trying to feel useful himself, rather than relying on Chamber.
Unfortunately, the devil is in the detail, too. I feel Gargantia’s subtler objectification and problematic elements are more of an issue than Valvrave’s in your face, bombastically retarded gender portrayal. Gargantia is trying to be an epic, poignant narrative, and a lot of its problematic elements are going to be overlooked because they’re not as in-your-face as other shows. Valvrave is actively repulsive, and I feel this makes it less harmful, no matter how much worse its content may be. Amy is goddamn 15, but for the most part we don’t bat an eyelid at the hyper-sexualisation she has been receiving, and I think it’s deeply worrying that we’ve been so desensitised to this sort of thing.
The Flowers of Evil 7
This is what I’ve been waiting for. For me, my trust in this adaptation was gonna be sealed with the way they handled the end of Volume 2, and oh boy did they nail it.
Let’s get a few things straight right now, the sexual undertones of that scene? No way that was accidental. This was a release for Kasuga and Nakamura in more ways than one, and they captured that perfectly. The descent into madness has begun and every other show falls further behind The Flowers of Evil every week.