In which Kelloggs sells his soul to the God of Yuri.
1. Nagi no Asukara
No surprises here, Nagi delivers yet another stellar episode and remains at the top for the fourth straight week. It would have occupied this spot for longer if not for the pesky existence of Little Busters and White Album 2 last season. With nothing of that quality poised to take over this season it looks like smooth sailing for Nagi going forward. Still, Nagi has more going for it than just a lack of competition. I really like how they’re weaving the romantic entanglements together and they are making great use of the time skip to make everybody’s lives more complicated. It seems like everybody intends to hold onto their old feelings (in some cases more willingly than others) which is creating emotional gridlock at this point. Hikari won’t move until he knows what happened to Manaka. Miuna can’t move until Hikari makes a decision. Kaname seems to have given zero thought to letting go of his feelings for Chisaki to the point that it seems like almost a point of pride to him that he’s still in love with her which prevents any chance of progress for him and Sayu.
At this point I’m most interested in where Chisaki goes from here. It seems like being effectively trapped on the surface for five years has taken its toll on her even if she outwardly hides the trauma. Things have gotten worse for her as now she has Hikari right in front of her but not in a form that can truly return her latent feelings for him. On her other side is Kaname, gamely refusing to give up even with the odds now stacked against him. Then finally at her side she has Tsumugu who she seems to have little intention of moving forward with thus far. I feel like it must seem to her that moving on with Tsumugu no matter how convenient it is and how “right” it might feel would in some small way be like giving up on her past life. It’s a sad place to be: unwilling to give up on the past but also unwilling to move on. It’s beautifully tragic and the most compelling part of a show with many compelling points.
Other than that, I must say I’m surprised that they’re heading back to Shioshishio this fast. Swimming down to a dormant Shioshishio is very different from reawakening the whole village but it’s still a big step. I’m very curious what they’ll find when they get there and it obviously carries huge implications for where the show goes from here. If Chisaki’s ultimate decision makes the biggest difference in this love web, the status of Manaka may hold the second most weight. I can’t wait to find out what will happen next.
2. Sakura Trick
Like Nagi and its vice-grip on the number one slot, Sakura Trick shows no signs of letting go of the number two spot anytime soon. My take on Sakura Trick may be uncommon but it’s catering to my particular tastes so strongly at this point that it’s borderline pornographic. I’m being fed exactly what I want with no strings attached and while that might not make Sakura trick the most innovative or elaborate show out there, it gets the job done and I enjoy it more than anything else this season outside of Nagi. This week’s episode was highlighted by Mitsuki’s developing affection for Haruka. (Can you blame her?) This may be the one time I will endorse the threesome ending. I do have one complaint and that’s the fact that I want to see Yuu get jealous over Haruka for once. I mentioned previously that I like how neither Haruka nor Yuu had a monopoly on airheaded moments but it seems like Haruka has a monopoly on the jealousy here. Hopefully that will change soon. Regardless, it’s a small gripe over an otherwise delightful show.
3. Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai: Ren
Chuunibyou Ren’s life at number 3 may be short lived but any time you give me an episode all about Dekomori and Nibutani messing with each other you’re going to move way up the list. Chuunibyou’s second season had done a good job of holding on to the bits that made season one so enjoyable even as it has failed to move the plot forward. This week’s selection of a first season gag to rehash was probably my favorite of them all. You need only look a few inches up your monitor to see how high simply pandering to my personal predilections can get you so it should be no surprise to see Chuunibyou here. I must say I’m disappointed with how thoroughly they reset everything at the end of the episode and I fear this may be the extent of the Dekomorisummer teasing we get this season but if that’s all we get it was great while it lasted.
4. Space Dandy
Shinichiro Watanabe’s style seems to have always resonated more strongly with a western audience as evidenced by the huge success Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo have met in the English-speaking world compared to their rather lukewarm reception in Japan. To a lesser extent the same is true of 2012’s Kids on the Slope. None of those really worked as well for me since, despite living my entire life in the United States, I have never had any love for action, especially the variety that appeals to American fans and I certainly prefer the Japanese style of romance to its western counterpart. The same cannot be said for my taste in comedy which is decidedly western. I do like the occasional anime comedy aimed at Japanese fans but I usually only get on board when the humor revolves around otaku in-jokes as that’s the only part of Japanese culture I’m anywhere close to as well versed in as the typical late night anime watcher. Space Dandy on the other hand, while still having some decidedly Japanese humor, (ramen shop episode anyone?) is really working for as a comedy in a way few anime have managed to in the past. The second half of this episode was about as much sustained funny as I can remember an anime ever carrying. The idea of collecting your own life insurance, the “zombie-senpai” scene and the sequence where Dandy accidentally avoids the zombie hunter were all exactly the kind of humor I like. I’ve always respected Watanabe’s skill as a director and I’m glad to see him finally working on something that is working for me.
5. Inari Konkon Koi Iroha
Inari drops two spots to number five this week, although it didn’t have a particularly bad episode. It just happened to be the week that Chuu2 Ren gave me exactly the episode I had been hoping they had in them and Space Dandy turned in its funniest episode yet. Inari was actually pretty good this week. I liked seeing Uka learning about the human world through her interactions with Inari’s brother. The events in the celestial plane I was less enthusiastic about. Inari, despite being a show based on a fantasy premise, seems to be at its best grounded in the real world. That is when the humor and the touching moments work best. I am enjoying the budding romance between Uka and Touka. Uka’s sense of wonder at some of the mundane parts of human life (and video games) plays well off of Touka’s touch of chuuni. I’m kind of wondering how they can wrap up the situation with Inari slowly draining Uka’s power in only ten episodes but that’s a worry for another week. For now, Inari Konkon Koi Iroha remains a solid entry among this season’s new shows.
Did I mention that D-Frag is dumb? Okay, now I did. D-Frag is dumb. Dumb things happen in D-Frag. Now that we got that out of the way, D-Frag was really funny this week. The running joke of delinquents whose actual activities are much less threatening than their behavior would indicate really works for me. It’s part and parcel of the acknowledged absurdity that makes D-Frag tick. I still think that the show would benefit from Kazama himself toning things down a bit but the excessively high-tension atmosphere is part of what makes D-Frag D-Frag so I still prefer this to a low-tension alternative. It’s no Space Dandy but D-Frag does what it does well and that’s good enough for me.
7. Silver Spoon
I don’t like horses. I took a brief horseback riding course as a kid and found them to be smelly, unpleasant creatures. There are plenty of people who consider them to be perfectly delightful animals and I respect their stance but I never liked them. As such, the sooner Silver Spoon gets past this horse-centric arc the better in my mind. Enjoying it hinges on the viewer’s ability to buy in to the relationships between the humans and the horses but it just isn’t going to work for me. I’m hoping this is just a vehicle to get back on the Mikage subplot but I’m running out of patience at this point. I also didn’t particularly care for the new Ojou-sama character, Ayame. I’m amenable to over the top ojou characters in theory but Silver Spoon is a show that gets so much of its appeal from how grounded in the reality of agricultural life it is and an over-the-top caricature like Ayame undermines the rest of the show which is unfortunate.
8. Saki: Zenkoku-hen
Finally, some real mahjong. I liked Yuuki’s Happy Gilmore-esque strategy of “If I can only win on the east hand then just keep winning so it never leaves the east hand.” It’s this brand of dumb logic that embodies what is great about Saki. Then again, you could also argue that with that logic the girl whose power is that hesitating makes her hand bigger could just hesitate for 10 minutes and get an instant yakuman. But here I am applying logic to Saki. That was silly of me. Now that I’ve got that out of my system I will say I’m interested in where Eisui’s team will go. Based on how they’re talking it sounds like their first player getting into a hole grants them some kind of advantage in later rounds. How this relates to her apparent narcolepsy is anybody’s guess. I hope Eisui moves on but that’s mostly because I like hearing Ohara Sayaka’s onee-san voice. (one ara is enough to do severe nutbladder damage) Anyway, enough about my voice actress proclivities. Saki’s back to real mahjong (to the extent anything in Saki resembles real mahjong) and that is categorically a good thing.
9. Witch Craft Works
I’m glad to see Mizushima-sensei’s style working its way into WCW again. The random inclusions of llamas and the epic/absurd giant bear versus giant rabbit battle were exactly the type of things that make WCW good. Even the brocon imouto was a welcome addition because while it may be generic it is also silly and WCW is best when it’s silly. When it gets the surrealism right and when Honoka can avoid being a huge burden WCW is a sight to behold. I can’t say with any sort of confidence that this will be the start of a pattern or anything but it can’t hurt, right?
10. The Pilot’s Love Song
I’m starting to wonder where this show can actually go that will make it interesting to me. I’ve compared it previously to Last Exile which is one of the most well-regarded examples of the genre but was nonetheless something that largely fell flat for me. If that means that even if The Pilot’s Love Song rises to the level of one of the best examples of its genre it still won’t go over well with me that can’t be a good sign. Conversely, the show is much more character focused than the world-building focused Last Exile which works in its favor. That’s not to say I’m not concerned about the direction of the show right now. In particular, the scene where the blanket fell off of Kal-el revealing his underwear to Claire was the kind of lame, classless scene I’d expect of a show that takes itself much less seriously. The sexual tension between Kal-el and Claire had already been established so the addition of the blanket dropping was entirely unnecessary for establishing the character relationships. It only served to grab some cheap laughs at the expense of the main character. One of the best parts of The Pilot’s Love Song is that it had managed to avoid such things thus far so to see something like that is quite worrying. I’m also running out of patience for Kal-el’s younger sister, Ariel. I get that she was bratty when she first met Kal-el at age nine but the fact that she doesn’t seem to have grown up much since then is troubling to say the least. The reveal at the end of the episode is interesting and I do want to know where they go with it but I think the negatives outweigh the positives in this week’s episode and create a lot of reason for concern going forward.
Well, we finally found out whether Nourin was willing to address the issue of why Ringo/Yuka decided to quit the idol business and run off to agricultural school. I can’t say that the answer was particularly satisfying. I was hoping for a more personal crisis rather than some kind of unexplained mental block. The quick solution(?) was similarly unsatisfying. I’m always skeptical when a show that thrives on absurd reference comedy and not taking itself seriously tries to slow things down and get a tad emotional. Sometimes it can work. The first season of Chuunibyou is a good example of this done effectively. Nourin is not a good example of this. I believe in Oonuma Shin’s skill as a director when he’s given good material to work with and Nourin is certainly that on the comedy front but that seems to be much less the case on the storytelling front. Ideally the staff realizes this and will stick to what made the second and third episodes of Nourin entertaining. If they decide they have ambitions for Nourin beyond what it’s capable of I can’t say that’s a good sign.
12. Seitokai Yakuindomo *
Another week, another pile of vaguely connected lewd jokes. I know I should have known this is what I’d be getting going into SYD* but I’m still surprised by how unwatchable that’s turned out to be. Maybe the first season was just fresher, maybe my tastes have changed in the nearly three years since I watched season one but whatever the reason SYD* just didn’t work for me. Dropped.
13. Golden Time
Holy cow. Where to start with this train wreck (car crash?) of an episode. It was excruciating to watch each character in turn overreact to what should have been a relatively minor incident. It was so oversold and fake that even when we got to the type of fight between Kouko and Banri I had been hoping to see for weeks I couldn’t enjoy it because the basis for the fight was just so dumb. I think the Little Busters curse is real. Screw Ghost Banri, the real ghost cursing this show is the ghost of Little Busters’ season one budget.
But even the travesty that was Golden Time couldn’t wrest the bottom spot from the reigning champ ImoCho. For its part ImoCho has been teasing some elements that could make it interesting, mostly the fact that the childhood friend and glasses girl can see Hiyori and Mitsuki when they’re ghosts. I’m not sure that’s good news for the show though since so much of the entertainment value came from the sheer stupidity and offensiveness of the first two episodes. Maybe the fifth episode can turn things around and get ImoCho back to being properly bad.