In which I attempt to keep things brief for once because I am busy this week.
My power rankings will (hopefully) be abbreviated this week as CFA exam prep has overtaken my life until Saturday. After that I’ll have some breathing room and some free time to pay off a bet I lost to our own PumpkinMochi (more on that later). Anyway, on with the rankings:
1. Love Live School Idol Project Season 2
Dirty little secret time: I never really liked Nozomi that much. Sure, her knowing smiles and her tarot habit were entertaining enough but her propensity for solving every problem via breast groping kind of left a bad taste in my mouth. The point is, I was very surprised how much a Nozomi episode was able to affect me emotionally. I went from not particularly caring about a character (in a show full of characters I actually do care about) to really relating to her when her history of changing schools and having difficulty making friends was revealed. When young Nozomi appeared in Nozomi’s tea I felt myself getting choked up alongside Nozomi. The humor in this episode was vintage Love Live as well, the highlights being the confession videos and Umi’s reaction to people in a movie kissing. At the same time I feel that the purity obsession regarding idols can be a bit much at times and it’s hard to ignore that issue when she show takes the time to point out that none of the characters have had boyfriends. Still, like the dieting issue, this was by no means the most problematic example of this trope and it’s pretty easy to enjoy the humor and ignore the unfortunate implications here. Next week (really today as I’m writing this) gives us Snow Halation so don’t look for Love Live to move down anytime soon.
2. Isshuukan Friends
Another episode down and Hase still isn’t bridging that gap between himself and Kaori. I hear some people getting frustrated with Hase for not being more direct but I think it’s very realistic for somebody like Hase who’s kind of awkward and very naïve and inexperienced to waffle like this. It doesn’t help that the girl he’s interested isn’t exactly familiar with romance either. The point is that while the progress has been slow in Isshuukan, it’s been slow in believable ways rather than the artificial methods of stalling relationship progress we see far too often in anime. All this may be bunk next week anyway because it looks like there may be storm clouds on the horizon in the form of a new (returning?) cast member. It remains to be seen where they’re going with this but the next episode title was quite ominous.
3. Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?
It was kind of a scatterbrained week for GochiUsa after managing to keep things largely coherent for the first seven episodes. The humor was still there and the episode was certainly enjoyable but it lacked the thematic stability or narrative flow of the previous episodes. I also found the hot springs/pool/whatever portion of this episode to be toeing the line of too lewd for this type of show. It’s possible to write a good boob joke or swimsuit episode that works within the context of the story but this didn’t really feel like that, at least not the entire time. The rest of the episode was standard GochiUsa which was good, although as I said it wasn’t as tightly constructed as previous episodes. I did really like the dialog in the movie, which is probably to be expected from a movie with a title like “The Rabbit who Became a Barista.” In most other cute slice of life anime this would be a stand out episode. The fact that it’s a step down from GochiUsa’s previous episodes is a testament to how good it’s been through seven weeks. I fully expect things to get back on track next week since it looks like the Aoyama situation will actually get resolved rather than the near misses we’ve had thus far.
4. Selector Infected WIXOSS
Not a lot actually happened this week on WIXOSS, mostly because the episode was devoted to explaining a lot of the craziness that took place last week. It’s really hard for me to say anything about this episode without huge spoilers so I’ll stop here other than to reiterate that anybody who dropped WIXOSS early on because they didn’t like the card game aspect or thought it was too slow is really missing out.
5. Escha & Logy no Atelier
Speaking of shoes that really toed the line regarding hot spring episodes, Atelier was pretty close to losing me several times this week with their decision to have a hot springs episode. The jokes were pretty bog standard for a bad hot springs episode and the omnipresent steam just screamed “BUY OUR BLU-RAYS PLEASE.” That said, when the show wasn’t making boob jokes or teasing us with naked bodies covered by steam this episode was actually pretty nice. The conflict with the fire goddess was resolved really nicely and with a decent sense of humor. The character interactions (again, when they weren’t comparing bust size or throwing things at the hapless male characters) were solid as usual. The show had to do something other than rest on its laurels to earn the number five spot (although if we’re being honest, most of “something” was Akuma no Riddle taking a step back) but the episode wasn’t a total loss and if this is as weak as an Atelier episode gets from here on out that’s just fine.
6. Akuma no Riddle
It wasn’t a fall all the way back to the status quo for Akuma no Riddle this week but it was certainly a step back from where we were last week. Riddle continues to excel in terms of pure mad-hat spectacle but the actual storytelling is leaving a lot to be desired. The combination of villains this week was very compelling and I’m sorry to see them go but I also think that the conclusion to their conflict wasn’t particularly well realized. This episode was kind of like the show as a whole in that it had some really good concepts and left a lot on the table in terms of execution. I was hoping to see more from Riddle this week to build on last week’s progress so I leave somewhat disappointed but not completely in despair.
7. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
What a difference a week makes. I complained last week that Bard seemed like he only existed to push Livius’ buttons and to make him mad/jealous but it turns out they were just waiting to flesh out his character the following week. Taking the time to show Bard’s history and why he acts the way he does really did wonders for his character and the show as a whole. It was also nice to see that Nike can push the two of them around if she wants. All in all a nice rebound episode for SoreSekai.
The guiding principle behind my ranking of Haikyuu seems to be: “the less they play volleyball, the more I enjoy the show.” Therefore, as you might expect, the 2 spot jump for Haikyuu this week was largely based on the lack of on screen volleyball. The show still has all the same problems, mostly related to Hinata, but I don’t get as actively mad at them when they aren’t part of actual on-screen gameplay. Still, it’s hard for me not to get a little depressed when it’s clear to me how much more interesting and realistic a character Kageyama is when compared to Hinata. Maybe (probably) it’s because I just connect with Kageyama on a much more fundamental level than I do with Hinata. I was never anywhere close to as talented as he was but I connect much more with his brand of self-reflection and teamwork than with Hinata’s style of throwing logic to the wind and going all out all the time. This contrast was crystalized in the conversation between Hinata, Kageyama and Asahi at the end of the episode. I felt like Kageyama said something far more meaningful and profound in his two lines about teamwork and relying on other people than Hinata did in his entire rambling barely-coherent speech. Since Hinata’s not going anywhere I guess I’ll just have to “deal with it” as they say. It would help if Haikyuu didn’t tease a much more interesting show the way it does.
9. Date a Live II
Two big takeaways form this week: one, holy shit is Kurumi overpowered. She basically takes on the rest of the cast single-handedly which is pretty ridiculous. Two, holy shit is the animation budget slipping on this show. We’re nearing the big climactic battle and the combat animation seems to be getting worse and worse. When most of your wide-angle battle animation looks like this it probably isn’t a good sign. (unless you’re a fan of geometry) Date a Live is kind of losing me at this point and it’s probably a good thing that it’s only going to be ten episodes long.
10. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
I lost my notes and can’t remember what the heck happened on Nanana this week so let’s just assume it was mediocre like usual. I could go back and figure it out for sure but I don’t have the time or the drive to do that right now. Next.
11. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
This episode was largely about Mayumi and a centipede. I am intensely afraid of insects and other creepy crawly things. I’m still not sure whether I hate Mayumi or the centipede more. That should tell you everything you need to know about what I thought of this episode.
12. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Another week of Mayumi’s character being wasted in this terrible show. I get that she’s responding to (un) justified attacks against her brother but would it be so hard for her to at least have a little ambition of her own? I guess I should know by now that this isn’t the point of Mahouka but it really bugs me. Aside from my continuing disappointment with the handling of Miyuki, we got one of the most comically evil villains in anime history. The man walks in with his squat bad guy stature, which of course means he’ll have an unwarranted chip on his shoulder. He wears a nice suit but you know that’s just for appearances and he probably didn’t earn his way to dressing nicely. Then you add in the smarmy bad guy smile and pointy ears for good measure and it becomes literally impossible to take this guy seriously. He’s just there to be as evil as humanly possible (assuming he is human, I mean look at those ears!) and to serve as yet another bowling pin of an opponent for Mahoukaman to summarily dispatch. The show has settled into a formula of Mahoukaman being presented with a seemingly impossible problem (and by seemingly I mean we’re told it’s impossible because the writer would never bother showing us that it’s impossible) and then solving it easily because he’s the great and powerful Mahoukaman. I’ve already said too much about this show in a week where I’m trying to keep things short so I’m calling it quits here. See you next week with more words and the promise of new content on the horizon.