In which things stop making sense.
Hanayamata continues to chug along with what was arguably its best episode thus far. This episode did pretty much everything you want from a show like Hanayamata. It was cute, it was funny and it concluded with a heartwarming moment of friends coming together. I loved the contrast this episode managed to draw between the failures of Yaya’s band and the budding yosakoi club. The show does a great job of selling us on Yaya’s emotional distress and then allows us to heal with her by the end. This is the kind of story that shows like Hanayamata are ideally suited to tell. Combine this with Yoshida Reiko’s scriptwriting magic and you have a recipe for an outstanding episode of anime. This episode shows what a show about cute girls can do if you just give the plot threads time to develop. Hanayamata may not be the greatest show of its kind ever but few shows can weave typical moe antics alongside genuine character growth like Hanayamata does.
2. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun
I wasn’t terribly enthused with the first Hori/Kashima episode of Nozaki-kun but the two really clicked for me this time. The way the two reversed the typical gender roles (which seems to be a staple of Nozaki-kun) was great but just seeing the two bounce off each other throughout the episode was very entertaining in its own right. However, the highlight of the episode came not from those two but from Nozaki-kun and his strategy of inserting boxes in order to cover for his lack of background-drawing skills. The concept on its own doesn’t sound that great but the way it was set up and executed was brilliant and made for one of the funniest sequences in the entire show thus far. The way the joke naturally built on itself rather than feeling like separate gags on the same idea was excellent in this case and has been a strength of the show so far. Nozaki-kun is shaping up to be one of the best anime comedies of recent memory which is not what I expected based on the manga. Thank you based Dogakobo.
3. Yama no Susume Second Season
Breather episodes are inevitable in a show like Yama no Susume but to make them work it’s important to make the breather episodes on a subject that actually has some value to the viewer. The breather episode should look at a character in a way we haven’t seen before, or put two characters that don’t spend much time together with each other or maybe just be exceptionally funny. Aoi’s quest for a “sexy” swimsuit did none of these things. Her nervousness about being seen in a swimsuit was different but it didn’t really show us anything about her that we didn’t already know. It wasn’t very funny, and we barely saw the other characters during the episode. Sure, it gets a bit of fanservice in but a) don’t sexualize the Yamas, b) the show doesn’t really run on that type of appeal and c) the fanservice as it was wasn’t particularly titillating. It was more of a wasted episode than a breather episode if you ask me which is unfortunate. At least we’re supposed to get 17 more of these. If this was only going to run for twelve episodes I’d be much more upset about wasting an entire episode like this.
4. Ao Haru Ride
I liked this episode of Ao Haru Ride a lot because of the way it provided context for Futaba’s fears. It is common for characters in anime like Ao Haru Ride to get worked up over small things because that’s just how teenagers are. However, I think it makes a big difference when the show can provide justification for these fears and make them feel more genuine rather than just a pretext for drama. In this case, Futaba’s experience with Yumi and how she reacted to the mere thought that Futaba was interested in the boy she was interested in is very useful in helping the viewer understand Futaba’s current state of mind. I’ve said before that I really like it when Ao Haru Ride gets into Futaba’s head and lets us in on the swirling mess of emotions she’s become and this was a great episode for that. I also like that the show seems to be taking its time and giving the moments time to breathe and set in rather than rushing through content. This is a double edged sword though because it means the anime likely won’t reach anything resembling a conclusion in its short run. That’s fine if your goal is for the anime to be an advertisement for the manga but it makes things hard for anime-only viewers. Moral of the story: Read the manga. It’s great if you’re at all into shoujo.
Glasslip is pretty much impossible to rank properly this week. Do I rank based on this week’s episode? If that’s the case then it would rank much lower than this. Should I rank based on my overall amount of enjoyment thus far? If that’s the case then it would be around number two or three. Should I rank it based on how I expect things to turn out? I honestly have no idea how things can turn out from here making that a fool’s errand. In the end I settled on number five which is below all the shows I genuinely like and above all the shows I have significant issues with. Is it perfect? No, but it’s about as close as I can get to a reasonable ranking of what Glasslip is for me at this point.
Barakamon had two very different half-episodes this week. The first half was okay but it was never going to work for me at all because of how prominently insects were involved. I get that it was designed to show Handa acting like a kid despite his age and loosening up but the whole thing gave me the jibblies. Again, no fault of the writers here but it still was not the most pleasant experience for me. The second half was more my speed and had a lot of good elements. The biggest problem was I don’t feel like we’ve established Naru’s character enough to really give that part of the episode the impact it could have had. All the right pieces were in place and I can imagine a version of Barakamon where that’s an exception closing half to an episode and I rank it at or near the top of this list but Barakamon hasn’t managed to be that show thus far.
7. The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles
The always outstanding Jon Bois over at SB Nation put together a 40,000 word epic tale of Tim Tebow’s theoretical exploits in a fictional version of the CFL (Canadian Football League) I read it this week and I thought it was phenomenal. It isn’t technically anime but as a work of fiction I enjoyed it more than everything below it on this list so I thought I’d share. Jon’s sense of humor is a bit odd so it might not be your thing but I think he’s hilarious. You can read it all here.
I find I like Princess Asseylum being badass far more than Inaho being badass. A lot of it may just be the badass female character versus the badass male character but I think it also is in large part because Asseylum actually has a personality and goals and defined abilities compared to Inaho being mostly bland and talented with very little explanation. I think that Aldnoah.Zero is suffering significantly from the fact that its main characters are teenagers with little in the way of explanation for why this should be so. I feel like the show would work so much better if Inaho and his friends were some elite squad of adult soldiers or at least if they were trained at some elite school from a very young age to be super soldiers Ender’s Game style but there’s been no indication that they’re anything but “normal high school students” which doesn’t suit this story at all. Slaine’s side of the story is the much more compelling one although this week it got bogged down in a torture sequence. I suppose the lack of Inaho being practically perfect this week was a trade for the Martians once again being almost comically evil. The clincher was when Cruhteo decided to beg the person he had been mercilessly beating and taunting for the first 90% of the episode for forgiveness when he realized the truth about Asseylum’s assassins. I’ll probably finish this cour of Aldnoah.Zero but I’m leaning against even bothering with the second cour if it’s going to be more of this.
9. Zankyou no Terror
If this is the episode where ZanTero showed us the type of show it truly wants to be then that’s very bad news. While other episodes had been hit or miss for me (mostly miss if we’re being honest), this episode was a mess from the start. The metaphorical chess game played between Nine, Twelve and Five is exciting until you stop at all to think about what is even going on and what this “game” actually entails. This was followed by an awkwardly executed scene between Five and Nine, Shibazaki joining up with the two terrorists all too fast, culminating in a high speed chase sequence and explosion that felt right out of a cheesy action movie. Put all of this on top of Five’s grating engrish and you have a real train (plane?) wreck of an episode. I didn’t love ZanTero before this episode but at least I respected what it was trying to do. Now I’m not even sure that’s the case anymore.
10. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei
I wanted to say that Mahouka devolved into LN shenanigans this week but the term “devolved” implies that Mahouka was somewhere above LN shenanigans on the evolutionary chain of anime at this point which it clearly was not. If anything I’d say the show ascended to the level of LN nonsense which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Mahouka. That said, Mahouka may be many things but apparently it is not actually a harem. We saw two pretty clear couples on screen this week and although their behavior together was pretty cheesy and trite, neither couple involved the Mahoukaman himself. This could be related to my pet theory that Tatsuya is gay but more importantly we saw female characters interested in men that weren’t Mahoukaman which is a bit surprising given how the credit for everything thus far has gone to Tatsuya. He gets all the credit for everything good ever but doesn’t get all the girls. I’m not sure I love that tradeoff.