In which the best shows get better, the worst shows get worse and the stuff in the middle… stays in the middle.
1. Hanayamata (Episode 11)
This episode started out inauspiciously with a swimsuit scene accompanied by trite boob jokes. Fortunately, everything after that was excellent as Hanayamata turned in what was easily the best episode of the series. It’s really great to see it when a cute slice of life show like this can earn the emotional payoff in its later episodes. The mother coming to take Hana home scenario was one that could have gone wrong in so many different ways but Hanayamata, to its credit, managed to avoid all of them. I said previously regarding the Machi/Sally conflict that Hanayamata does a good job of making both sides of a conflict feel sympathetic and that was even truer here. Rather than a hard-nosed uncaring mother dragging her unwilling daughter back home with her, Hana’s conflict was a genuinely compelling tug of war between her family on one side and her friends on the other. You can see that Haru desperately wants her family to come back together and this might be their only shot to live as a family again. At the same time she doesn’t want to desert her friends after they finally have an opportunity to perform together. This episode also does a great job of showing how much energy Hana provided to the group and how she served as the emotional center of the club. Her absence will be felt strongly but I did like seeing Naru stepping up when she found out what was happening to Hana. I’m sure that Hana will be back next week in some capacity but I applaud the show for taking their time and not having Hana’s parents just give in at the sight of her friends at the airport. All in all it was a superb episode from Hanayamata and one of the best episodes of slice of life anime in recent memory.
2. NoSubs no Susume
Placeholder again for Yama no Susume because subs are slow again.
3. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Episode 12 [END])
You had to know that Nozaki-kun was going to finish off with a tease ending like this rather than with any actual romantic progression. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting to see it happen though. The show can be cruel at times, especially to Chiyo, but at the same time that’s always been part of its charm. Aside from the blatant teasing, the finale was still funny although for my money not as funny as some of the earlier episodes.
Overall, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun was one of the better anime comedies in recent memory. The jokes hit far more often than they missed which tends to be a rarity for me as far as anime comedies go. I like comedies that play with the viewer’s expectations and Nozaki-kun does this week in and week out with the way it flips gender roles on their head. At the same time, the 4koma format mostly prevents it from being anything more than an often funny story about a bunch of goofballs. I’m not sure that it needed to be more than that to succeed at what the creators set out to do though. If nothing else, Dogakobo proved once again that they are more than capable of elevating merely decent source material into something quite good. Nozaki-kun may not have been the funniest anime out there or the most consistent but it certainly exceeded my modest expectations and that has to be considered a win.
Final Verdict: 6/10
4. Ao Haru Ride (Episode 11)
Finally a really good episode of Ao Haru Ride. I was impressed by the way they managed to give Kou a backstory that actually justifies his typical erratic shoujo male lead behavior. We saw both why he no longer takes his studies as seriously and why he constantly pushes away the people that try to show him some affection. I also liked how Futaba had unwittingly hurt Kou with her comments about starting over when he knows that there’s no way for him to get another chance to fix the mistakes he made. This was also the first time in the show where I found myself really buying into Kou and Futaba as a couple. Previously I had been indifferent to them at best but with more context regarding the reasons behind Kou’s behavior I actually really like the two of them together. The one pain point for me this week was Yuki Kaji’s inability to really pull off the emotional high points of Kou’s backstory. I found myself underwhelmed compared to how I felt reading about this in the manga. Yuki Kaji’s always been a liability for Ao Haru Ride and this episode just made it more apparent. This was still a quality episode though.
5. Barakamon (Episode 11)
This was a solid episode of Barakamon. Seeing Handa back with his family and confronting the man he had attacked in episode one was an interesting dynamic. The phone call from everybody on the island was a nice, heartwarming touch. That said, this episode could have been so much better if the previous ten episodes had actually built the emotional engagement to get me really invested in the events of this episode. There was also the ever present issue of the show occasionally getting too high-strung for my tastes such as when Handa’s mother first showed up or Handa’s general antics around Kawafuji and the director. I also felt a bit detached from Handa just because I personally don’t really get the way artists in general are wired. This is probably more a failing on my part than on the show’s part but on some level I feel like Barakamon should be able to convey the mindset of an artist to people who don’t necessarily have that mindset. Again, this episode was good, but like the rest of the show this episode teases you with hints of a better show that Barakmon will never quite be.
6. Zankyou no Terror (Episode 10)
As I’ve been saying for weeks, Zankyou no Terror is what it is at this point. This wasn’t as bad as episode seven but it had that same mindless thriller feel that turned me off to episode seven. Again, that’s more my fault than ZanTero’s fault. Whatever.
7. Glasslip (Episode 12)
This episode was a gigantic waste of time. The show isn’t technically over yet but as far as I’m concerned it’s done as anything resembling a compelling anime.
8. Aldnoah.Zero (Episode 12 [END])
I know that there was a “second season” announced but this is the end of the line for me with Aldnoah.Zero. The show was all spectacle with no substance up to the end. The final two episodes felt more like somebody writing a story with the mindset of “wouldn’t this be really cool?” rather than trying to write something coherent with quality characterization. I am aware of the so-called “rule of cool” but I’ve never been on who particularly subscribes to that rule in my personal evaluations of media. (I prefer the rule of cute personally) As far as issues unique to Aldnoah, Inaho was impossibly perfect up to his untimely demise (I hope?) at the hands of Slaine and Sauzbaum, despite appearing to be a different brand of Martian villain, succumbed to the same selective idiocy that dooms anybody facing off against Inaho. As a whole, Aldnoah.Zero felt like it was cut from the same bombastic cloth as Code Geass R2 but had none of the charm and personality of Geass. I’m not sure if having Butch Gen on board for the entire run would have made things better. (If his comments at a Gargantia event are to be believed the original outline’s ending was even worse) Either way, Aldnoah.Zero serves as further evidence that action anime made just for the sake of action are never going to work for me.
Final Verdict: 3/10
9. Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei (Episode 25)
New week, same old Mahouka. Tatsuya finally got his Ironman suit although at least in this case he isn’t alone in having one. The biggest takeaway for me from this episode was how brutally the students from first high school slaughtered their enemies. It wasn’t enough to out-maneuver them, they alternately vaporized the enemies or caused them to explode in a fountain of blood. It was actually pretty creepy to see how they reveled in the horrific destruction. I guess it comes with the territory when you write a story about a group of people who are absolutely positive that their cause is right and their enemies don’t deserve to live. When you’re free to bask in the supposed justice of your noble cause then even human slaughter becomes acceptable. Such is life in the world of Mahoukaman.