In which tears are shed
1. Love Live School Idol Project Season 2
I think the measure of a show like Love Live, which is in its comfort zone as a cheerful, light-hearted friendhip/comedy show, but has ambitions towards something more substantial, is how it handles an episode like episode eleven. While this certainly toed the line between touching and overwrought, I think on the whole it was really well done. There was plenty of downside risk in trying to pull off something as emotionally charged as this in a show that doesn’t necessarily bill itself as such, but Love Live managed to avoid all of that. I really liked how this episode addressed the question of what µ’s really means to the girls. Is µ’s a product of the school and a label that can be used to describe whoever happens to be a member of the current school idol group? Or is µ’s specific to the nine of them and it leaves the school as soon as the third years graduate? It’s an interesting question as it is also relevant to the idol industry as a whole where groups like AKB48 are selling a name that gets attached to whoever happens to be in the group at the time. However, in the case of µ’s it was clear that the name can’t be anything but the original nine members and so the group reached the proper conclusion to discontinue the name once the third years are gone. This episode also offered even more opportunities for Honoka to step up and lead the group. The handling of her character this season has been superb and another way in which Love Live stands above other, similar shows. If you had asked me which show from this season was most likely to make me tear up at some point I would not have guessed Love Live. The fact that it managed that is yet another way in which this season of Love Live has impressed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined before the season started.
2. Gochuumon wa Usagi desu ka?
Yay for Christmas episodes! I’ve always had a soft spot for any episode with a holiday or seasonal theme in shows like this so it’s no surprise that I really liked this episode of GochiUsa. The episode actually felt like a finale both because of the Christmas theme and because we saw all of the cast members we’ve seen thus far coming together and working/playing in the café at the same time. The Christmas theme throughout the episode really helped hold things together which is a hallmark of a good episode of something like this. I also really liked seeing Cocoa getting to play at being Chino’s big sister. The Cocoa/Chino relationship has been one of the highlights of the season for me. I really like both the way Cocoa dotes on Chino and the way Chino is growing to grudgingly accept and even desire Cocoa’s affection. Thanks to all this GochiUsa continues to be a shining example of the genre and one of my favorite shows of the season.
3. Isshuukan Friends
There were no easy answers this week on Isshuukan Friends as it seems the closer we get to solving the mystery of Fujimiya’s condition the more strain it puts on Hase and Fujimiya’s relationship. It’s a bit concerning to me to see that Hase seems to be thinking more of himself throughout this ordeal when this is clearly harder on Fujimiya than it is on him. Hopefully Hase can sort all this out next week because it does not bode well for his relationship with Fujimiya even if they make it through this trial. Overall I have to say I’m not in love with how Isshuukan Friends is handling the dramatic portion of its story but it isn’t enough of an issue to drop it any lower on this list.
4. Selector Infected WIXOSS
Well that certainly wasn’t what I expected. The finale of WIXOSS certainly threw us a curveball which is good because I would have been disappointed if it played things straight after last week. Ruuko still seemed to have sacrifice on her mind but Tama wasn’t about to let that happen. I really liked how Tama seems to finally be getting some sort of personality and is demonstrated desires of her own. (Desires aside from BATTORU that is) Unfortunately we have to wait three months for the continuation of the story, but that also means there are three months for the people who missed the boat on WIXOSS to catch up with this highly entertaining show.
Final (first half) Verdict: 6/10
5. Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii
Well that was kind of a let-down. After building up the conflict between Livius/Nike and Nike’s family last week, everything was resolved within the first five minutes of this episode. One the one hand that seems a bit anti-climactic but on the other hand the whole conflict was kind of a weak spot to begin with so the less time spent on it the better. I’m much happier to see more of Livius and Nike as a couple rather than some bogus family conflict. I haven’t been the biggest supporter of this pairing all season but they’ve really grown on me as a couple to the point where I really like the two of them together now. Nike’s childhood friend also really grew in my estimation this episode. He was a sever annoyance last week but, like Bard before him, he was really fleshed out in the following episode to the point where the flimsy characterization of the previous week was forgiven. It isn’t the best romance anime out there but SoreSekai has managed to surpass my modest expectations entering this season.
6. Atelier Escha and Logy
More than any episode except maybe episode three this felt like it was ripped straight from a video game with very little effort made to mold it into something that suits the TV anime format. The episode did give me a strong urge to go play a JRPG which I guess is a good thing, kind of? The actual storytelling here was pretty questionable though as thing like the discovery of the art depicting clone and clone’s revelations about the source of the unexplored ruins felt very much like they were held back until the player got to the correct point in the game rather than for any narrative reason. Such is the limitation of adapting something that was originally player-controlled into something that is consumed by a passive viewer. The storyline here, such as it was, certainly held my interest more than episode three so that’s a positive but I still wouldn’t call it a great episode. Even this episode was better than what I had expected out of Atelier so from that perspective it’s still a win.
This was a better episode of Haikyuu and by that I mean it was an episode in which they didn’t play any volleyball. The episode still held the familiarity and nostalgia that attracts me to Haikyuu without Hinata’s bullshit to break the immersion. I don’t have much else to say since not a ton that was notable happened in this episode. It was all set up for next week which means a return to volleyball and probably a return to me getting mad at Hinata.
8. Akuma no Riddle
That episode was quite good for fifteen minutes. Too bad that’s about the nicest thing I can say about that mess. You can check my full write up for a more detailed take on things but the short version is, the ending was pointless, cowardly and undermined everything that was good about the rest of the show. You can’t just tear everything up and then magically put it back together without actually dealing with the fallout. It all smacks of lazy writing and a poor vision for what Akuma no Riddle was going to be. Very disappointing.
Final Verdict: 4/10
9. Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou
I think we can fix all the problems with Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou by simply taking every main character that isn’t Ritsu and shipping them all off to another show for them to ruin. This way we can protect the useful and interesting things Kawaisou has to say about growing up as an introvert from the horrendous human beings that occupy Ritsu’s home life. Even Usa, who’s ostensibly supposed to be the generic “nice guy” of the show gets worryingly possessive of Ritsu by the end. Even though we as viewers know that Ritsu doesn’t want to be at the mixer, Usa doesn’t know that for sure and he hasn’t made any noticeable effort to understand Ritsu well enough to know this instinctively. His concern is more for keeping Ritsu for himself and preserving her purity rather than actual concern for Ritsu’s well-being. Rather than acknowledge this the show seems to champion Usa as the good guy we’re supposed to want to be with Ritsu. Even when Ritsu is recalling what upset her about the mixer she thinks of the general mean statement Mitsu made that applied to Usa before she thinks of him invading her personal space and practically assaulting her. Even though the second behavior is obviously more repugnant, the first is presented as Mitsu’s greatest crime which is completely missing the point of what went wrong at that mixer.
Ultimately, Kawaisou was an anime that teased us with a few very insightful looks at introversion and human interaction but never actually realized those ideas. Instead, those concepts ended up buried under all of the unpleasant behaviors of the main cast. The show never seemed interested in changing these characters or having them realize how unacceptable their behavior was but instead was content to present them as is and say “isn’t that funny?” I’d almost prefer that the show not even have the actual insightful moments because then it would have been easy for me to drop. Instead, I slogged through it hoping that the flashes of brilliance could become more frequent and overwhelm the otherwise mediocre comedy and thoroughly unlikable cast. In the end, Kawaisou failed at even this modest goal. It’s a shame that a show that has some really nice ideas and looks this pretty had to turn out like this.
Final Verdict: 3/10
10. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
When I went to find this week’s Mahouka episode the only English subtitles available were in 480p and the only subbed 720p version was in Spanish. Given a choice between low resolution or non-English subtitles I went with the Spanish subs. I wanted a change of pace and I took six years of Spanish so I got the gist of what was going on but I couldn’t tell you the specifics of what happened this week. Just as well because I’m sure the specifics were exactly as terrible as they’d been the previous eleven weeks. It seems like this author is incapable of creating a situation where anybody other than Tatsuya gets credit for doing something. Even when somebody else does something it’s because of Tatsuya either through his engineering or through him somehow pulling the strings behind the scenes. I am confused about where they’re going with this arc. By the end of the enrollment arc Tatsuya and his friends were fighting off international terrorists and defending the world from the evils of equality. Now we’re through five episodes of an interscholastic competition that resembles Mario Party minigames and it isn’t at all clear what is at stake here other than bragging rights. Needless to say this is a significant step down in stakes for reasons that are unclear. I’d say I expect an explanation of this soon but this writer might be tone deaf enough to be playing this straight. The sabotage subplot may say otherwise but once again they’re sabotaging the Mario Party Olympics so who really cares?