In which I say: “Screw plot intricacies, bring on the cute girls.”
This wasn’t a great episode of Glasslip. If anything it was actually pretty mediocre. This ranking is more about inertia and the lack of strong contenders to take over this spot than Glasslip’s actual performance this week. Glasslip still has the highest ceiling any show this season as the underwhelming results thus far haven’t reduced the potential the show has but it hasn’t blown me away the way I had hoped either. Still, an underwhelming PA Works anime is better than most of what’s out there. Unfortunately, I seem to recall saying something similar about the second season of Chuunibyou and KyoAni. Hopefully Glasslip does more to imitate Tari Tari than ChuuRen.
2. Yama no Susume
Something that has struck me about the second season of Yama no Susume is the authenticity of it. Slice of life anime with casts populated entirely by cute girls tend to have a relatively idealistic take on life and relationships and while the relationships between Yama no Susume’s characters are clearly idealized, the actual mountain climbing is very true to life. The show doesn’t make it look easy or simple but it also captures the joy of seeing things from a new vantage point and the rewarding feeling that comes when you can look down and see how far you’ve come. I don’t expect Yama no Susume to deal with all the potential dangers and pitfalls of mountaineering but so far it’s handled the topic with a great deal of realism which I appreciate. Sure Yama no Susume is cute, but it’s cuteness you can at least take somewhat seriously.
Three episodes in to Hanayamata and I find myself very impressed with the way the characters in the show are developing. I love most Manga Time Kirara adaptations (GochiUsa, Kiniro Mosaic, Yuyushiki etc) but they tend to involve fairly static character relationships as development is sacrificed at the altar of moe. Hanayamata manages to keep the moe aesthetic and the cute antics but also have characters whose relationships grow and change over time. A perfect example of this is the way Yaya is growing to accept Hana. Initially Yaya saw Hana merely as an intruder who was disrupting her relationship with Naru. After having some alone time with Hana we can see Yaya start to become infected by Hana’s energy herself as she begins to understand why Naru has been so taken with Hana. The lesson that disruption isn’t always a bad thing and that Naru deserves to have her own goals that she pursues in her own way is a strong one and I really like seeing Yaya learn it in this way. Aside from that, the show is quite funny, particularly the James Bond parody to open the episode and the goofy manager of the Yosakoi store(?). If Hanayamata can maintain this combination of cute, comedy and character growth we might have a real winner on our hands.
4. Ao Haru Ride
Ao Haru Ride is still good although it seems to be going through some growing pains these days. It feels like the author may have been still feeling out the character of Kou at this point in the manga as he sometimes feels like he has two sides to him for the sake of having two sides rather than him feeling like an internally consistent character. I’m hopeful that more time will allow Kou to feel more human than he does now. I also find him to be more tolerable when he isn’t talking which may have more to do with Kaji Yuki’s voice than what he’s actually saying. On the other side I really like what they’re doing with Futaba here. The way she is conscious of how she’s perceived by her peers and how she works to control her image rather than letting others expectations control her is very interesting to me. I thought the way that the group of five was assembled at the end, particularly the additions of Murao and Kominato felt clunky and forced by it’s possible it will all make sense in good time. Overall this wasn’t the best Ao Haru Ride has but it wasn’t terrible either.
5. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
Now this was the episode I was waiting for Nozaki-kun to have. The show benefitted greatly from not introducing any new characters this week and limiting the cast to Nozaki, Sakura and Mikorin for basically the entire episode. What resulted was some of the best genre-aware comedy I’ve seen in a long time. The segment with Nozaki and Mikorin playing visual novels together was hilarious, in particular when Nozaki couldn’t bear to let the character he named after his manga character be in love with anybody else and when Nozaki’s shoujo-inspired ideas of how to win a girl’s heart completely failed in the male-oriented visual novel world. Really it seems like anything involving giving love advice is in this show’s sweet spot as evidenced by the nearly as funny second half where Nozaki plays the part of a girl (which apparently means wearing bunny ears?) in order to prepare Mikorin for a mixer. If Nozaki-kun can keep playing with gender roles like this going forward it could be a fixture in the top five for weeks to come.
While not as funny as Nozaki-kun, Barakamon is indeed quite funny at times. I’m still slightly disappointed that I’m not getting the touching show about gaining maturity and understanding other perspectives that I expected Barakamon to be, this is a decent consolation prize. Barakamon is a competently executed comedy show that will occasionally tease something more. Maybe I just need to change my own perspective on what Barakamon should be and accept it for what it is at this point. A marginal disappointment isn’t the worst fate for a show.
The big question on everybody’s mind with Aldnoah.Zero was how the show would hold up once Urobuchi Gen was no longer actually writing the episodes. While it’s tempting to draw conclusions after a single non-Gen episode I’m withholding judgment at this point. Sure, episode four was probably a step down from episode three, but episode two was a similar step down from episode one. If we had been told that Butch Gen only wrote episode one of Aldnoah like he did with Gargantia, then left episode two unchanged I wonder how many people would have said the sky was falling after the underwhelming second episode. Now I shouldn’t completely deny the shortcomings of this episode. The dialog was pretty weak and the progression of combat (useless soldiers get crushed by overwhelming Vers tech followed by teenagers saving the day just because) felt worryingly like a repeat of the episode two and three progression. If this becomes a pattern it’ll be bad news for Aldnoah but at this point it might just be a blip in an otherwise solid anime.
8. Zankyou no Terror
Zankyou no Terror still isn’t clicking with me mostly due to the same issues relating to characterization and who is getting the majority of the screen-time. The biggest difference is I can see a little bit of hope this week compared to the show completely missing me last week. Shibisaki getting some backstory was a big boost to this episode and I can see him being a very compelling character going forward. The actual cat and mouse riddle game felt to me like a poor man’s Death Note more than anything as the deductions felt pretty forced at times rather than being purely logical. Still, it offered something to engage me which is a step up from the previous two episodes. With the show less than halfway done I can see Terror building on this and becoming something that I’m much more invested in than I currently am. For now, I remain skeptical.
9. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga Locodol Yatte Mitta
I’m not sure a pervy manager was the best route for a show like Locodol to take. The show does get some comedy mileage out of it but having somebody creeping on the main characters makes the show lose a lot of its charm points. I still find the show off and on amusing and there’s no doubt that Yukari is adorable but it still feels pretty hollow and lacking in any real areas of strength. Lol Idols seems to be getting just about as little mileage as you can for me with a cute girls doing cute things show. Normally this is a genre I will eat up no questions asked but this show may stretch the limits of that.
10. Space Dandy
This was almost exactly what I was afraid of with episode four of Space Dandy’s second cour. I was hoping for the show to either deliver another great episode along the lines of the zombie episode from season one that would convince me the show is worth keeping, or another episode that completely misses me similar to last week’s so I could safely drop the show without thinking much of it. Instead we ended up somewhere in the middle with an episode that was far more entertaining than the three that preceded it but not all the way there to convince me the show still has what I’m looking for. I loved the idea of parodying American high school dramas and the parts of the episode that did just that were exactly what I want to see out of Space Dandy. Unfortunately, the musical aspect of the episode made it drag for me quite a bit at times. The overall package left me decidedly on the fence regarding whether to keep watching. The next episode preview looks like more of the Space Dandy I don’t like which makes me apprehensive about giving the show another week. This could be the first time I’ve ever dropped a show merely based on the next episode preview but that might be what it comes to here.
I think this is one of those times where I have to give Haikyuu the “it’s not you, it’s me” treatment. As far as sports anime go, Haikyuu seems to be a fairly agreeable one which hits all the high points people are looking for out of their sports anime without going too far into the absurd “sport super power” realm. The sequence that closed this episode where Karasuno ran a complex play designed to get Asahi a clear shot coming out of the back row was brilliantly scripted and choreographed and by all accounts should have been a moment that made me want to shout “hell yeah!” Unfortunately, I was sitting there thinking “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING DATEKOU?!? DON’T JUMP UNTIL YOU KNOW WHERE THE BALL IS GOING!” Everybody else is enjoying the culmination of a long process of team building while I’m fuming at a player breaking the cardinal sin of blocking by watching the player instead of the ball. That’s not to say everybody else needs to wise up and see things my way. On the contrary, I’m probably the one who needs to sit back and take things less seriously. I’m not sure where I’ll be going with Haikyuu from here. I might keep watching and commenting here like always, I might drop the show because it frustrates me so much, or I might keep watching but stop writing about it since my ranting about volleyball minutiae doesn’t really do anybody any good. We shall see.
12. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
Mahouka, on the other hand, is a show that by all rights I should have dropped months ago but somehow I can’t seem to quit this show. The fact that Mahouka is a failure is obvious but the exact way in which is happens to fail is what makes it interesting to me, at least interesting enough to keep watching each week. This week we saw the author’s politics seeping through again, although not nearly as overt as it was in the first arc. This was a case where the show wasn’t trying to make a political point but nonetheless the message was there. We see Miyuki’s opponents actually managing to stay competitive in the mirage bat tournament which prompts her to ask Tatsuya for permission to use their magical flying device in the second half of the match. Tatsuya grants her this because apparently having an uneven playing field is okay as long as the advantage goes to the designated “good guys.” If any other school tried this they’d be painted by the story as underhanded scum (as some were when they tried to sabotage the First team’s CADs) but when Tatsuya does it, it’s just maintaining the natural order of things i.e. Tatsuya and his classmates must retain their supremacy at all times. When the next round comes along and the First students are informed that all the other schools will be granted the flying device they get indignant as if this advantage that wasn’t available to the other schools was somehow their right and that passing it out isn’t “fair”. It’s amazingly self-centered and tone-deaf but what’s crazy is that the author seems to realize none of this and treats it as if it was a reasonable reaction to a legitimate act of aggression. As the nine schools competition arc slogs into its eleventh episode it seems like the “China as the enemy” plot line is going to return which might be good for more insight into the author if nothing else. Mahouka’s bad but at least it’s often the interesting kind of bad.