In which these anime ARE WHAT WE THOUGHT THEY WERE.
1. Love Live School Idol Project Second Season
Really nice move this week by the Love Live team to give Rin, and to a lesser extent Hanayo, an episode to flesh out their characters. Up to this point Rin had clearly gotten the least screen-time of any of the members of µ’s and Hanayo arguably the second least. They joined early on but the focus at that time was more on Maki and the second years than anything leaving Rin and Hanayo out in the cold as far as characterization goes. This episode did a lot to resolve that issue as we got to see Rin in a new light as a reluctant leader who is probably much more comfortable in her role as a goofball character than as the center of the group. Seeing Rin in this light as well as her very real concerns about her appearance and how she fits into the group as a whole really sold this episode to me. It was impressive how they managed to introduce, develop and mostly resolve Rin’s issues in the space of a single episode without it feeling incredibly rushed or contrived (although everybody declaring Rin to be the girliest member of the group was a stretch. Maybe it’s true when everybody else is wearing a tuxedo.) Other highlights included Umi’s faces as well as the many derivative versions that emerged in the following days. Also, nice to see that Hanayo x Rin (or りんぱな for you pixiv aficionados out there) is basically canon at this point.
2. Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu Ka?
In a stunning turn of events, Haikyuu was not the best anime about volleyball this week as the sports (half) episode of GochiUsa presented a much different, but arguably more enjoyable, version of the sport. It was nice to see that Chiya’s tendency to be a little bit evil extends to the field of competition. The whole sports portion was quite fun although it wasn’t up to the standards of the first three episodes in terms of general narrative flow and how well the jokes worked. Where this episode shined was the final ten minutes or so when it got into the father’s day stories. I’m a sucker for cute stories about children doing something special for their parents or vice versa and this part tugged at my heartstrings more so than any other part of GochiUsa up to this point. The final sequence, especially Rize’s letter to her father was emotionally on point and really was a great capper for another solid episode of GochiUsa.
3. Isshuukan Friends
The introduction of Saki on Isshuukan Friends this week offered an opportunity for the show to look at different ways of approaching Fujimiya. While Hase had something of an earnest nervousness about the way he asked to be Fujimiya’s friend, Saki instead just charges full steam ahead without a hint of hesitation. I liked the contrast and overall I thought this was a good episode with Saki and Fujimiya’s relationship adding an interesting new dynamic to the show. That said, I thought that the way Fujimiya and Saki came together left a bit to be desired. I wish they had spent more time dealing with Fujimiya and Saki getting used to how each other and understanding how the other wants to act. I kept waiting for Fujimiya to get (rightfully) annoyed with Saki’s level of pushiness but it never actually came. I don’t doubt that the two of them could have reached a mutual understanding regarding how to act around one another but I would have preferred to see that play out more rather than jumping to the conclusion. On a semi-related note, I’m a bit concerned with Hase’s continuing jealous streak. It almost led to disaster last week and yet he’s right back at it this week with regards to Saki. Hopefully this gets resolved at some point because last week’s episode clearly didn’t resolve it.
4. Selector Infected WIXOSS
Selector Infected WIXOSS is the first of several shows this week that are finally becoming what I expected them to be before the season started. We expected card games and despair from WIXOSS and this week’s episode delivered on both fronts. The actual gameplay is still a bit of a sticking point with this show but the more the game serves as a metaphor for the struggle these characters face in the real world and the less it’s about the actual card game the better and I feel like we got that this week. I think WIXOSS might really having something going here with the way each character is slowly brought down by their own insecurities and desires. It’s surprising I have WIXOSS this high after basically leaving it for dead after episode three but things have really turned around here and WIXOSS could end up being one of the better shows of this season.
5. Escha & Logy no Atelier
We were back to the calm and sweet version of Atelier this week and that’s exactly what I like to see from this show. Lucille had the potential to be a very grating new character but I actually liked her quite a bit. The story they told about her finding success through her friends and gaining acceptance from her father was the kind of heartwarming story I want out of a good iyashikei anime. That said, I just didn’t feel like this episode had the same spark of other good iyashikei like Non Non Biyori or Tamayura. It’s one of those cases where all the pieces are there but I didn’t feel like it came together as well as it should have. That isn’t to say the episode was a failure, I liked it enough to put it at number five here but it still left me thinking that it could have been better.
6. Date a Live II
Continuing with the theme of shows that are what I thought they would be, Date a Live II returned to the formula that worked so well for it in the first season which is nice after what I considered to be a mostly mediocre first arc. It was a welcome sight to see Kotori back in her rightful spot in the commander’s seat and the return of Shido (sorry, Shiori) being given three options and of course ending up forced into the worst one each time. The new girl is interesting and only partially because she’s a lesbian. The episode wasn’t exactly overflowing with yuri antics but Shido having to cross-dress to fulfil his duty was pretty great. At the same time things like this make it hard to shake the feeling that Date a Live is just a poor man’s version of The World God Only Knows which does a much better job with pretty much everything Date a Live tries to do. It isn’t exactly fair to knock a show for not living up to the standard of a really great franchise like TWGOK but it does put a bit of a damper on the proceedings.
It took only a couple minutes of this week’s episode of Haikyuu for them to run the play I had been waiting all of last week for them to run. Namely: using Hinata as a decoy to hold the blockers and then setting to an open Tanaka. The issues preventing Haikyuu from being a great show at this point seem to all boil down to Hinata himself. I find myself perpetually mystified regarding what value Hinata is providing here. It’s clear that Kageyama is a very talented setter and Tsukishima certainly has some skill although it’s mostly height. Hinata, by contrast, can run quickly and jump high but he doesn’t seem to possess any real volleyball skills and his physical gifts merely allow him to almost replicate what less athletic but taller people can do just as well if not better. I have a hard time understanding why they chose to start somebody as inexperienced and of as questionable utility as HInata. Sure it’s a scrimmage but maybe get the kid some seasoning before you throw him into the fire? Especially if they’re going to start him at middle blocker which seems absurd to me. Somebody of Hinata’s stature may be able to have some value as an outside hitter (or wing spiker as they seem to call them in Japan) but I don’t care how high you can jump, there’s no excuse for starting a shrimp like HInata at a middle position. Even given enough time to learn the game he’ll never occupy the amount of net space a middle needs to cover given how short his arms are. These are still pretty minor details but I do think that playing HInata clearly out of position is more egregious than anything done in episode four. We’ll see how things go from here but I grow less optimistic about Haikyuu by the week.
8. Akuma no Riddle
Akuma no Riddle seems to put together some really good pieces each week but the pacing ends up being its perpetual Achilles heel. Riddle seems content to be merely a popcorn show with a few decent action scenes each week, some lesbians doing their thing for the camera and a bunch of moments of the cast acting delightfully evil in between. Unfortunately, the individual plot points and characters feel like they could be so much more (and the manga arguably aims for this). In a work that could take advantage of the many varied relationships between its cast members and their conflicting views on humanity, Akuma no Riddle stubbornly refuses to acknowledge any of it. I suppose I can’t force the people in charge of this adaptation to make it exactly the way I want but it’s upsetting to see something that could be really good end up as merely mediocre.
9. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
I said before the season aired that Kawaisou was more than a little bit reminiscent of Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo. I haven’t mentioned it much since but the resemblance remains with the primary difference being that Ritsu is a far better main female character than Shiina Mashiro. Ritsu presents a very realistic and nuanced portrayal of a stubborn introvert whereas Mashiro was a fetish-ized caricature of what an eccentric genius girl clearly designed to appeal to the audience’s more questionable instincts. What they do have in common (besides amazing visuals) is a mediocre (at best) supporting cast and the potential for really awful episodes independent of who the female lead is. This episode reminded me a great deal of the truly awful little sister episode of Sakurasou with Sorata’s little sister replaced by Shirsosaki’s elementary school friend. Instead of a over the top caricature of a little sister with a huge brother complex, we got a bratty little girl who appeals to Shirosaki’s over the top caricature of masochism. Still, of the side characters, Shirosaki is probably my favorite although that’s more due to his whimsical moments like episode two with the bubbles or this week with the ball ramps. Unfortunately his whimsical side, much like Usa and Ritsu’s special moments, was inevitably interrupted, in this case by his masochistic antics. When he goes into his masochist mode he ends up right down there with Mayumi and Sayaka in terms of terrible characters. A Shiro-centric episode was always going to be a mixed bag and this one probably ended up more to the bad than to the good. Hopefully we can just forget this ever happened and move on to something better next week.
10. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
I don’t know if the author of Nanana feels like he needs to use fanservice and generic LN tropes ad a crutch or if the people in charge of the adaptation turned these things up because they think it will help the show sell better. Either way, week after week this show feels like a better story that inexplicably devolves into generic light novel nonsense for no particular reason. I also can’t help but think that Nanana might have been better off as a video game than as a light novel/anime. The island seems like it would be a joy to explore as part of a game world and finding each part of Nanana’s collection and solving the puzzles seems like a very video-game friendly premise. Even the room with all the odd-jobs posted felt like a side-quest hub right out of an RPG. I’d love a Nanana video game but I’m merely lukewarm on Nanana the anime. Tensai continues to be the show’s saving grace but who knows how much longer she can carry this questionable plot.
11. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou was not the only show this week with a bratty loli that I really could have done without. To be honest, I liked the concept of a girl from Livius’ past playing up Nike’s personal insecurities about whether she was worthy of Livius and whether the Sun Kingdom would accept her. Unfortunately, they chose to execute this in probably the worst possible way. SoreSekai seems to have a lot of interesting ideas but a lot of questionable choices in regards to how they execute those ideas. A youthful king who had power thrown at him at a young age and never had the chance to truly grow up and get over his past trauma is interesting but making him as young and child-like in appearance as Livius was very questionable. Similarly, personifying Livius’ status and the whims of the residents of the Sun Kingdom via a twintailed brat wasn’t exactly the greatest of choices. Like Nanana, I want to believe SoreSekai can rise above some of its poorer choices but at this point maybe the show is what it is.
12. Kenzen Robo Daimidaler
In contrast to most of the above shows, I’m still not sure what Kenzen Robo Daimidaler is, much less what I thought it was. They apparently did follow through on the protagonist death from last week although the door is still wide open for him to return given the issue was barely addressed this week. I actually liked the pivot from Kouchi to Kiriko and Shouma in no small part because I find Hi-ERO particles being activated via lovey-dovey antics far more palatable than activation via unwanted groping. That’s not to say the show isn’t still lewd as hell but at least it’s significantly less rape-y now. The actual plot? Well… it’s still Daimidaler which means that you alternate between hilarious moments and moments where you feel like a terrible person for even watching the show (sometimes they overlap). Daimidaler is still perched precariously on the edge of dumpsville but it manages to live for another week.
13. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
It seems like the cool thing to do these days in the ani-blogosphere is to point out the obvious flaws in the poorly thought-out political arguments put forward in Mahouka thus making you look smart. It’s a pretty cheap tactic that almost anybody can pull off given how suspect this show’s politics are. Then again, I’ve never been one to avoid an easy chance to make myself look smart, and now that I’ve pointed out that I’m doing this I can feel superior to all the other people doing this and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. You can’t point that out either because I just pointed it out first. This one too. I can do this all night. Wheeeee.
I kid of course. I actually don’t care to pick about the actual political statements made in this episode, such as they are, because any political argument can be taken down with a little bit of spin and a generous helping of personal bias. What I do want to address is why the supposed debate in Mahouka is such a joke. The problem arises from the fact that the arguments that Tatsuya (I’ll use his real name for once) is debunking aren’t really solid mainstream views. (by the same token, Tatsuya’s views aren’t solid or mainstream either so breaking them apart is an equally futile endeavor) Nobody reasonable actually argues for complete forced equality for everyone. I don’t know that anybody is even arguing for enforced equal starting points. However, Mahouka presents this as the only option on the table coming from these equality pushing terrorists and this makes his “do nothing” alternative look positively magnanimous. When you construct your own counter-argument and then thoroughly debunk it what have you really accomplished here?
Aside from the straw-man genocide occurring here, Tatsuya seems to never miss an opportunity to point out the magic being used around him. The world of Mahouka seems pretty interesting actually but it loses a lot of its appeal when every aspect of it is explained directly to you in excruciating detail. It seems like nobody told the staff how to just let a scene breathe and stand on its own without explicitly defining everything that is happening all the time. The technobabble really drags down the scenes that show off the visuals which are easily the best part of this show.
As if the plot doing everything it can to glorify Tatsuya wasn’t enough, Miyuki seems to feel the need to step in at any given moment and point out how awesome and brilliant her big brother is. There’s no subtlety to be found anywhere in this show as it beats you over the head with every single thing about it. I don’t know if the author and the staff working on this have such a dim view on their audience that they think all this is necessary or if they just don’t have any storytelling implements more delicate than a sledgehammer. Whatever the reason, Mahouka is terrible, but it’s also probably the most fun terrible show to watch in a long time just for the spectacle of it all. Don’t ever change Mahouka, you’re perfectly terrible just the way you are.
Official power rankings are here. It’s nice to finally see Love Live cracking the top five. All those first place votes I’ve been giving it are finally paying off. I also find Akuma no Riddle being all the way up at number six to be interesting. It’s certainly gotten better over the last few weeks but I still think it’s a deeply flawed show. I’m a bit surprised not to see WIXOSS anywhere but maybe that’s because everybody dropped it after episode two or three, which is hard to blame them for. Also, Chaika in the top ten which… what?