In which Yano is still the best.
1. Shirobako (Episode 21)
You know the drill by this point. Shirobako: great, other shows: not. Like most episodes this one had a nice balance of the silly and the serious with Yano’s stalking of the episode director and Misa’s use of a roller coaster to study the faces of humans under high G-forces counterbalanced by the heavier Hiraoka-related content. I thought this episode took another important step in Hiraoka’s story. Episodes nineteen and twenty worked to show the thought process behind his lazy and dismissive attitudes and this episode did a lot of the work of showing where that thought process comes from. It certainly doesn’t justify his behavior but knowing why he became this way at least makes him marginally more sympathetic. Hiraoka isn’t just somebody who woke up one day and thought “I’m going to be a jerk to everybody around me. That seems like a good idea” but rather somebody with high hopes for his career in the anime industry who then saw those hopes crushed and became jaded and cynical. It’s rough when reality doesn’t match your dreams. Some people are like Yano and make the best of it but others become broken-hearted and develop resentment for anybody they see as not realizing that their dream is a lie. Hiraoka’s still a jackass but now we know why he’s a jackass and I for one hope that he gets some measure of redemption before this is all over.
2. The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (Episode 8)
Maybe a week off was just what the doctor ordered for Cinderella Girls. This episode felt like it was right out of the good part of the old Idolmaster playbook. The focus was narrowed down to a single character and the episode told a heartwarming story that elaborated a bit on Ranko’s personality beyond simply being “the chuuni one”. She’s still mostly defined by that trait but at least we have a wrinkle to it now rather than her just being straight up all chuuni all the time. Add in Producer-san’s incredibly moe attempts to be less formal and you have the formula for a really solid episode. More like this please.
3. Koufuku Graffiti (Episode 9)
This was a pretty solid episode of Koufuku Graffiti. It nailed the heartwarming feeling that this show needs to get right in order to succeed. That said, a “together for the holidays” themed episode is about as much of a gimme as you can get in that department so it’s not actually that impressive that Koufuku got it right. Degree of difficulty aside, this episode kept the focus on Ryou and Kirin sharing food and memories which has been the show’s strongest point so far. The issues involving the erotic eating and Shinbou’s shot framing still linger but they were mostly ignorable this week. I think the ship has sailed on Koufuku Graffiti being an above average slice of life but I’ll be happy if it can run out the clock at this level.
4. Kantai Collection: KanColle (Episode 9)
So, um, what the heck is this show doing? This episode left me mostly feeling confused, partially because it threw out a lot of jokes that I think I need to play the game to get. But also because it doesn’t seem to fit at all with the story they were trying to tell the previous few episodes. KanColle had entered into a comfortable rhythm of episodic vignettes involving various members of the fleet with nothing much carrying over from episode to episode. Then this episode comes out and throws plot points at us that demanded some level of multi-episode build up that just wasn’t there. Yuudachi enters her Kai-ni form apparently to appease fans of the game because there was no narrative reason for this to happen right now. Same with Fubuki’s frustrated reaction to not being picked for an upgrade. That whole subplot feels like it would appeal to game players who have the experience of favoring one ship girl over another for upgrades but I was left mostly confused. It wasn’t as bad as the death in episode three because I at least have some modicum of attachment to these two but it isn’t great. Then the episode ends with an attack that is played as a dramatic turn but based on our experience with episode three I don’t think this will have any lasting impact on the story. The fact that the commander had pretty much been a non-entity to this point with Nagato apparently doing all the commanding makes me think his possible elimination will be a non-isue. On the one hand that’s probably a good thing because I don’t think KanColle is capable of carrying this subplot forward in a meaningful way. On the other, it makes you wonder why even bother with an episode like this in the first place.
5. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Episode 20)
KimiUso ends up at number five not by virtue of being particularly good this week but mostly by avoiding being bad. This episode was fine as far as it goes. Kousei’s struggle to maintain his composure when faced with a rapidly deteriorated Kaori is reasonably compelling but the execution just isn’t all the way there to take this over the top. The storytelling also feels confused as we’ve once again dropped Takeshi and Emi out of the picture and the focus has returned to the Kaori/Ryouta subplot which hasn’t worked for me from the start. It was nice to see that Kousei has grown up since the show started. Too bad the show hasn’t grown up with him.
6. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Episode 9)
The odd episode number = good episode rule came through this week as we had a very entertaining episode of Binan. The show broke from the usual formula for combatting monsters which was important because that template had been wearing thin the last few weeks. I also liked the decision to bring back the newspaper club as their antics have made for some of the best parts of the show. Add in an outstanding performance by Midorikawa Hikaru as this week’s villain and you have a recipe for a very solid episode.
7. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Episode 8)
Saekano continues to have issues with the way it portrays its main characters embracing their otaku hobbies. I’m all for being passionate about your interests but Saekano presents a world where being an otaku completely defines these characters and every interaction is viewed through the lens of otaku-dom. I’m still at a loss for how the show really feels about Megumi. It often feels like she’s being framed as the voice of reason like when she initially enters Tomoya’s room and is disgusted by the prominently placed pornography. Unfortunately, nothing seems to come of her disgust or her other protests against Tomoya’s otaku excesses. I like to think that the author gets that this is wrong but it seems like he either doesn’t get it or would rather indulge his audience than expose Tomoya’s ideals for what they really are. The other primary issue here is I just don’t get why these girls are so dedicated to Tomoya. He’s a gross, obsessive otaku that has done nothing to earn their respect and yet they’re constantly at his beck and call. It’s this disconnect that takes scenes like this episode’s closing scene, that should be emotionally charged, and causes them to fall flat because I don’t buy into Eriri actually caring about Tomoya as much as she seems to.
8. Parasyte (Episode 21)
Well it wasn’t as bad as episode twenty, but that’s about the most I can say for this week’s episode of Parasyte. The initial fight was a chore to get through as the characters insisted on declaring their tactics out loud in the middle of combat. The middle part was reasonable enough, and I found Shinichi’s increasing panic as he realizes he’s up against an enemy far more powerful than anything he’s faced so far. That’s about as compelling as the show’s been since episode 12. Unfortunately the episode closed with an inexplicable sex scene that just felt oddly placed. When did we progress from awkward glances and maybe holding hands to this? Did I miss something? I guess it might just be par for the course with Parasyte’s plotting at this point.
9. Shinmai Maou no Testament (Episode 9)
This was more on the right track than previous episodes of Testament although the show is still painful to watch due to all the TV censoring. All of our reactions to this episode can be found here.
10. Tantei Kageki Milky Holmes TD (Episode 8)
Milky Holmes’ return after a break (in this case due to lack of subtitles rather than actually taking a week off like Cinderella Girls) was not nearly as successful as Cinderella Girls’ return. This episode ended up feeling like a really mediocre episode of Scooby Doo as the high density of dumb jokes and reference humor I had come to expect was replaced with a second-rate mystery plot. I want my detectives being damedame and goofing around, not actually attempting to solve mysteries damnit.