In which we have a surprise entrant into the top five.
1. Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?
Really solid episode of GochiUsa this week, especially the second half. Even if you ignore the fact that she’s voiced by the wonderful Hayami Saori, Aoyama is a delightful character and watching her trying to find her calling in life. The episode held together much better than last week’s despite having two distinct storylines. A lot of this was due to how well integrated the stories were but also because they shared a common theme of finding yourself, first with Rize/Roze trying to be ladylike and then the aforementioned Aoyama arc. I was also really impressed with how they were able to take the patently absurd Tippy situation and actually get some emotional mileage out of it via Aoyama’s desire to meet Chino’s grandfather again. The whole thing is very silly but the characters still feel human which is a large reason for the show’s success. As a stand out offering within a genre I love, GochiUsa takes the top spot this week.
2. Isshuukan Friends
It was kind of an up and down episode of Isshuukan Friends this week. There were some really good points like Hase’s conversations with Kaori’s mom, some more evidence that despite being a hard ass, Kiryuu’s heart is in the right place and some very relatable emotional moments from Kaori herself. There were also some very good directorial choices here, with the most obvious being the change in color palette in the nurse’s office near the end. Isshuukan has done a lot of good things with the colors and the scenery reflecting the characters’ moods in general and this was a notable example of that. On the other hand, Saki’s derp moe is starting to straddle the fine line between “endearingly eccentric” and “how does she even function?” I mostly like her but the extent to which she’s forgetful is starting to become a stretch. I also have some concerns about the reset at the end of the episode. It was obvious that more would need to be done regarding the root cause of Kaori’s condition but I have a nagging fear that this reset means that this episode will be the high water mark in terms of romantic progress between Hase and Kaori. I could be completely wrong and we’ll actually get some closure there but I’ve seen shows avoid couples becoming explicitly involved too many times to completely ignore the possibility here.
3. Love Live: School Idol Project Second Season
I was pumped going into this week because of the promise of Snow Halation but it seems like the staff of Love Live forgot that in addition to choreographing the big dance number at the end of the episode, they also needed to actually, you know, write a believable story to get them there. The drama regarding getting the second year students to the event was complete nonsense and the eventual solution to it was way too convenient and went beyond and semblance of believability. Even if you ignore the idea that the rest of the school got together and shoveled the whole city so the three idols could run to their event, the actual concern about missing the show didn’t make sense in the first place. If the weather is bad enough to shut down the train system, that’s exactly the time when an event like the final Love Live prelims would be rescheduled. If Honoka, Umi and Kotori are having trouble getting to the show, guess what? Everybody’s having trouble getting to the show. I just never saw any way that this should have been an issue which made the entire first twenty minutes of the episode ring hollow. In spite of all of that, the actual Snow Halation performance was everything I had hoped for. It was a great rendition of one of my favorite songs from the franchise and while it didn’t totally make up for the nonsense that preceded it, it did help a lot.
4. Selector Infected WIXOSS
WIXOSS just keeps on churning out solid episodes week after week. Ever since we got over the initial growing pains of card game BS, the show has been the model of consistency. Each episode shows us something new about the characters while also expertly building the tension leading up to the next episode. I was surprised this week to see that it seems like Yuzuki is going to be the sacrificial one, refusing to give up Hitoe’s freedom in exchange for her own. Given it had looked from the start like Ruuko was the one most likely to sacrifice herself, this is an interesting development. In addition, the scene where Yuzuki sees “herself” with Kazuki and feeling all the emotions she’s going through in that moment was a real high point for the episode and for the show. You can really feel Okada’s writing talent behind this show and thus far it has largely avoided a lot of the excesses that come with an Okada story. Finally, I was amused to discover that the twitter account used by Iona in the anime actually exists and has the tweet she sent out in the show. I don’t know if this is a fan account or if it was created by the production company but either way I got a chuckle out of that.
5. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
I never expected to see this show rank in my top five after I nearly dropped it six weeks ago. Very few people seem to still be watching this show and even fewer seem to have much to say about it but this was a very nice episode that I feel deserves some mention. The biggest thing that made this episode special was the fact that it was the first time I really saw Livius and Nike as a true couple. Sure they’ve been designated as a couple almost from the start and they had some arguments that resembled that of lovers but it wasn’t until now that they really felt like they were romantically involved. The way they understand each other implicitly really stood out. I was impressed when Livius agreed to let Nike go visit her family. Without saying it explicitly, you could tell he was thinking “this is clearly very important to you and therefore it is important to me and I want you to do it.” That level of understanding and respect is something that seems to be missing from far too many real life couples never mind fictional ones. To see it so clearly here was very satisfying. The kiss scene was probably one of the best I’ve seen in anime as it avoided the typical interruptions or immediate repudiation from one or more of those involved. Sure they were embarrassed, but the embarrassment felt natural as did the progression that led to the kiss. All of this adds up to an incredibly solid romance episode which is almost guaranteed to earn a high ranking from me.
6. Akuma no Riddle
Well that was a mindless pile of pure indulgent action and violence. And… I kind of liked it actually. That’s surprising given my typical stance on mindless violence but Akuma no Riddle really gets how to make something like this work. The moments of exposition that they have are kept short enough so that they don’t break the flow of the fight and in general the events on screen are allowed to breathe and speak for themselves. The episode also set up several interesting plot threads to work with over the next three episodes and I’m genuinely excited to see what they do with this going forward.
7. Escha & Logy no Atelier
I probably knew that this type of episode was coming at some point but I never really wanted to admit it. I found it really tough to swallow the show completely ignoring the issue of the unexplored ruins for eight episodes and then suddenly in episode nine, the whole crew is insistent on exploring it first once Central indicates they plan to go in. The writers never bothered to make it clear exactly why it’s so important to Escha that she be the first one into the ruins. I get that she wants to explore it because of her parents but there was nothing about her backstory as shown to us in this episode that would indicate that being first makes any difference here. Even if it was that important, the fact that they’ve done nothing on that front for so long makes their demands ring kind of hollow. Sorry guys, I’m just not buying it.
Speaking of not buying it, Haikyuu seems intent on resolving a whole ton of character arcs in this one match. We have Asahi and his block-phobia alongside Nishinoya and his personal hang ups regarding Asahi. Then they threw in Suguwara, the previous setter, and his desires out of nowhere. It’s hard for me to get invested in his need for the spotlight when that need was only articulated via a short monologue this week rather than through careful build up via actions over the course of several episodes. I’m also getting tired of the way time freezes so the characters can talk in the middle of a match. It probably was not nearly as bad in manga form since the ball can hang in the air as long as you want when the pictures don’t move. In anime for I find these in-game pauses really kill the flow and energy of a match which significantly reduces my enjoyment of the show.
I’ve also heard some people question Asahi hitting the ball through the block at the end of the episode. While that is something that can happen, I can’t really accept that on its own curing his issues with getting blocked. Sure, when you’re up against a group of weak blockers with poor technique that haven’t played together much you can sometimes hit it through a block but if he’s against a competent blocking team (like he was in the flashback) that trick will never work. No matter how hard you hit the ball, a good block will always win. I think that hitting it through the block won’t be his solution but rather a way for him to get his confidence back which is probably good enough for me. We’ll see.
9. Date a Live
There’s a huge gap from Haikyuu to everything in the rest of this list. Date a Live turned down the humor this week which is a real problem since that was all they had going for them at this point. This episode was awful. The dialog made very little sense and what did make sense was completely lacking in genuine emotion. The action sequences, such as they were, were terrible because the animation budget seems to be almost completely gone. It honestly looked like something made about ten years ago. Apparently ten episodes was too much for AIC Plus to handle. Thankfully there’s only one episode left before I can be done with the withered corpse of what was once Date a Live.
10. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Well well well, look who’s moved up from the basement. Don’t get me wrong, Mahouka is still really, really bad. It’s just that the shows below it were really, really, really bad this week. It takes a special kind of show to get to the point where lesbian rape and boob jokes are a step up for the show but that’s where we are at this point in Mahouka. This episode also actually had some events that weren’t all about making Tatsuya look amazing (although there was still a good amount of that). “Not as bad as it usually is” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement but for this week it’s enough to move Mahouka up to number ten on my list.
11. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
Kawaisou seems intent on teasing us with elements of a much better show before Mayumi or Sayaka comes along to inevitably ruin everything. It’s frustrating when you see Kawaisou actually touching on something poignant like Hayashi’s regret over how she treated Usa in front of her friends only to have it rudely interrupted by Mayumi. Her only purpose seems to be to walk into any scene with something resembling genuine, positive human emotions and say “No. Screw you. I’m miserable so everybody else has to be miserable too.” It’s just not much fun to watch these people be terrible human beings week after week. At least it’s almost over.
12. Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin
It seems like when you get to the point where you no longer know what’s going on in a show because it can’t keep your attention long enough for you to follow it, it’s probably time to move on. I’m sure all of this makes sense in the authors head but the cast is just too large and the writing to handle it just isn’t there. It’s really hard to juggle a lot of characters and their motivations and this author just doesn’t seem to have it down yet. Farewell Nanana, at least we’ll always have happy memories of Tensai.