In which I am, once again, surprised.
1. Shirobako (Episode 15)
No surprises at the top this week though, as Shirobako is still excellent and is easily the class of a season that, while it’s better than I expected, is still lacking in top end shows. I was glad to see that they hired to the two girls that were interviewed in previously as they both left a favorable impression on me. Andou’s boundless enthusiasm is a lot of fun, although I identify a lot more with the hyper-competent but not as passionate Sara. More importantly, the two really complement each other and are a lot of fun to watch work together. One other notable thing about this episode was the way the details of what was going on were narrated to us by Aoi’s plush bear. I admit that a lot of the content of the episode would have been confusing to people outside the industry but one of Shirobako’s strengths up to this point had been its ability to make esoteric industry things accessible to the uninitiated without any overt explanation/narration. This was probably more inside anime than any other episode so the narration may have been necessary but it still felt a bit less elegant to have it all explained directly to us rather than demonstrated more naturally through the dialog of the actual characters. It’s a minor complaint about an otherwise very good episode but it did bother me a little.
2. Koufuku Graffiti (Episode 3)
I think Koufuku Graffiti may be doomed to be perpetually at war with itself. The visual excesses of Shinbou and the erotic eating drag the show in one direction while the more grounded, family moments try to create a very different show. Regardless of the internal contradictions two things are clear: one, when it’s on its game this show just oozes happiness and is a joy to watch (assuming you aren’t hungry) and two, I really need to learn how to make omurice. The show excels at making some of the most delicious looking food I’ve seen in anime which is important since the show leans on that whenever it isn’t hitting on the family theme. I’d be lying if I said this couldn’t lose me before it’s over but so far so good for Koufuku Graffiti.
3. The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls
The fate of Cinderella Girls probably depends on how well it can balance its attempts to focus on the main trio of Rin, Uzuki and Mio with the need to show off the other girls to appease existing fans. The show is much better when it has that focus and fortunately the majority of this episode avoided wandering away from the main three. I loved the way the episode took us through the progression of their preparation from the initial dance practice to the dress rehearsal all the way to the actual live event. The animation was particularly fluid and there was clear attention to detail, especially in the hair. There were a couple moments that felt off-model with regard to the characters faces but overall the episode was outstanding visually which greatly enhanced the experience. Things will drift back to the other girls eventually, but I hope we can get more episodes like this mixed in as well.
4. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Episode 2)
I know I probably shouldn’t but I find myself strangely charmed by Saekano. The premise seems tired on the surface but the writing and dialog has managed to inject some life into it and I really enjoy the way these characters bounce off each other. It’s not quite on the same level but the banter in this show reminds me a lot of the early parts of Steins;Gate which I absolutely loved. The show has an amazing ability to take the discussions that are steeped in otaku in-jokes and make them feel natural. The show could still crash and burn in the future but at this point Saekano is getting more mileage out of a hopeless otaku and his quirky cast of female friends than I thought it could.
5. Parasyte (Episode 15)
It feels like Parasyte’s been stuck in neutral the last few episodes. The interesting ideas are still there but the show hasn’t really done anything with them since Kana died. Migi and Shinichi are in sort of a static tug of war that isn’t going one way or the other. Things did seem to pick up towards the end of the episode though and I like the concept of a person with multiple parasites in them and what significance that might have going forward.
6. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Episode 14)
We’ve come a long way from the middle episodes of the first cour of KimiUso when I had very little positive to say about the show. I’m not sure the show will ever be completely fixed but it’s significantly more enjoyable than it was several episodes ago. The immense upside might be gone but KimiUso still has a chance to be a decent show. You can read my full thoughts on this episode here.
7. Yoru no Yatterman (Episode 2)
This was a pretty underwhelming episode compared to the first. The beginning and end were promising as they touched on the family themes that the show had shown off in episode one but the middle was pretty messy. The combat took on a goofy and childish tone and it like the show was aimed at a younger audience. I thought the introduction of the blind girl at the end was promising but the jury’s definitely still out on this one.
8. Shinmai Maou no Tesament (Episode 3)
How do you follow up “NINE TIMES”? With cake in the bath apparently. Testament is certainly not a good show but it is a show that doesn’t hold back (TV censorship notwithstanding) and it manages to entertain with its unapologetic harem nonsense. It’s definitely a show that’s better watching as a group and you can check out the results of our group watch here.
9. Kantai Collection: KanColle (Episode 3)
KanColle is one of those shows where I can see what it’s trying to do but it just isn’t working. I’d like for it to work as the show has a lot of elements that should appeal to me but the whole production feels too beholden to an existing fan base that I sit on the fringes of. I often notice scenes that could be executed with one or maybe two additional girls using a crowd of six or so which results in overly busy shots and a distracted feeling. Why have four girls deliver one line each when one of them could have said all four? It’s hard to connect with the characters when they insist on throwing so many at you and giving each one so little screen time. The ending was an interesting direction for the show but like I said, it doesn’t really work for me. I’m just not invested enough in the characters for the end of the episode to have the shock value and the emotional impact that it’s supposed to. Props to the staff for going bold here I guess, but without a solid foundation to the show, going bold doesn’t really count for much.
10. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Episode 3)
I feel like this episode had exactly the right balance of nonsense and magical boy combat, which is to say that it was almost all nonsense. With a talented comedy director and writer pair on board it was probably a cinch that Binan wouldn’t miss its comedic mark every week and indeed this episode was quite funny. The characters are mostly defined by a single quirk but this episode managed to get the most out of those quirks using the backdrop of the pretty boy contest to great effect. I have a feeling this might be a bumpy ride still but the magical boys are back in the keep pile for a least a couple more weeks.
11. Tantei Kagai Mikly Holmes TD (Episode 3)
This is one of those episodes where I forgot to take notes and I really don’t remember much of what happened in the episode, which isn’t a great sign. I do remember it being funnier than the second episode as more of the references landed and the pro wrestling match at the end was pretty funny. They seem to have forgotten Nero by the end so maybe they can get some mileage out of that.
12. Yuri Kuma Arashi (Episode 3)
This was actually a noticeably better episode of Yuri Kuma than the second. The story seemed to hold together more and having read the commentary of some people more skilled at following Ikuhara’s madness than I, the more subtle points felt clearer than they had before. This low ranking is more an effect of the other bottom tier shows from last week being dropped/doing better this week and anything with a weak episode being too far ahead for YuriKuma to catch up. Ikuhara’s style is never going to be something I love but it’s looking more like something I can tolerate which is progress.