In which the best shows are peaking at exactly the right time.
1. Shirobako (Episode 23)
I was kind of skeptical about this episode after last week’s cliffhanger ending. It felt like the “mangaka didn’t like our work so we have to redo it” plot was already used so having the Musani team rush to complete something after last minute changes were imposed on them felt like a weak way to create additional conflict before the show ends. Instead they managed to put a different spin on the scenario this time with the focus being on the director himself instead of Miyamori and the production crew. The first three quarters of this episode were all about the director and the sequence was glorious. Seiichi had been kind of a goofball (emphasis on ball) up to this point but the early parts of the episode did a lot to show his more human side as he drew support and inspiration from the people who had worked with him the longest. Honda and the studio president’s words of encouragement were really heartfelt as Shirobako once again excelled at taking characters who had mostly been side-shows and bringing them to the forefront to great effect. Of course, the director didn’t completely lose his goofball tendencies and the invasion of the publishing company scenes benefited greatly from that. Maybe it’s because I’m already predisposed to liking this show and maybe it’s because of Mizushima’s singular directing talent but this sequence, while absurd in concept, worked really well for me. The conversation with the mangaka was the crowning moment for Seiichi in my mind as we finally saw him not as the karaage-eating, storyboard-avoiding weight dragging the production down but rather somebody with creative spark that can work with Nogame-sensei to craft a satisfying ending to the Third Aerial Girls anime. I wouldn’t say that Seiichi grew up a lot himself in that moment, but he grew up a lot in our eyes. The follow-up scene of “funny story” getting his comeuppance was extremely cathartic as well.
All of that was great but it was just a prelude to the scene that might put Shirobako over the top for me. Up to this point Shirobako had been a very solid and consistent show but it was still lacking that peak level that I look for in my top shows. It had plenty of very good episodes and almost no missteps but it was lacking for that one transcendent moment that stays with you long after the show’s over. We got that moment this week. When Seiichi declared that they needed a new voice actress who sounded similar to Catherine I knew where they were going with it, and to be honest it felt a little convenient for me. I appreciated the work that had been done to set up this situation but it almost too easy that this particular show would happen to need somebody that fit this particular description at this time. But once Zuka-chan walked through that door and introduced herself I suddenly stopped caring at all how convenient this may or may not have been and just enjoyed the moment. From Miyamori’s stunned expression at seeing Shizuka arrive to her struggling and eventually failing to keep her composure while listening to Shizuka record to Shizuka’s lines about being one step closer to her dream it was all perfect. It served as a wonderful culmination of a the long journey we’ve been on since we first met the five members of the animation club sharing donuts and working on their low quality cartoon. All of the late nights at the studio, all of the failed auditions, all the mind numbing CG work and all the moments where they weren’t sure if they were going to be able to put food on the table while still chasing their dreams. Those times of fear and uncertainty were all necessary in order to get us to that moment. That is the moment that makes all of this meaningful and in that moment, we were all Miyamori.
2. Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Episode 22 [END])
Kimiuso continued its mad dash up the rankings right until the end, attempting to make up for all the bad parts early on. This episode was a collection of brilliant moments from start to finish, delivered with a level of visual flair unrivaled by any recent anime. Kousei’s final piano performance was brilliantly directed and it did a great job of letting the music and animation speak for themselves. There was a point in the middle where I feel like Kousei didn’t talk for multiple minutes but the show was still able to convey so much thought and emotion simply through the music and the visuals. Kousei seeing Kaori by his side drove home the point that even when he’s alone he still plays with her. Music is the gift that was first given to him by his mother and then returned to him by Kaori and even after they pass, they’re still by his side whenever he plays the piano. The music was also expertly used to convey Kousei’s emotions. It was smooth and sedate when he was relaxed then shifted to frantic when he was terrified. We really saw Kousei putting his own emotions into his performance rather than simply playing what was on the sheet. This all built to the singular moment when he finally says goodbye to Kaori as he finishes his performance and tears stream down his face.
And I have to give Kimiuso credit here. They did not back down from Kaori’s condition being terminal. I was afraid they might find some way to weasel out of her death but it was ultimately necessary for Kousei to complete his character arc and I’m glad they didn’t pull any punches. The letter Kaori left for Kousei was just as beautiful as the performance that preceded it albeit in a very different fashion. Hearing her finally lay her emotions out in the open was a deeply moving experience both for Kousei and for the viewer. I felt like her “lie” was a bit obvious (I had been harping on it from the start) but it did tie up the show nicely and it may have been a shock to Kousei even if it wasn’t for us. The sequence peaked as he finished the letter and a single tear fell onto the words “suki desu” (I love you).
Now the question becomes, where does that leave the show as a whole? The last two episodes were undoubtedly brilliant but Kimiuso as a whole was painfully inconsistent. These episodes felt like the ending of a much better show and if the entire show had been at that level this would certainly be in my top twenty and maybe competing for the top ten. Unfortunately I can’t just ignore the significant missteps that the show had before this brilliant conclusion. Kimiuso had a wider range of performance than almost any other anime I’ve seen. At its best it was an easy 9/10 combining visual and auditory brilliance with deeply resonant emotional moments. On the other hand, when it was attempting comedy or wallowing in some of the weaker subplots it barely cracks 4/10 and left me wondering whether I should drop the show altogether. If Kimiuso was maybe six episodes shorter and if Kaori was less of a bully early on then it really could have been something special. Instead we’re left with a show that never really managed to live up to its full potential. I’ll fondly remember the good times I had with this show, but ultimately I’ll look back on it with regret more than anything.
Final Verdict: 6/10
3. Koufuku Graffiti (Episode 11)
Wow, 1200 words in and only on show number three. After the brilliant performances put on by the top two shows this week everything else kind of feels like a letdown. That’s not to say these episodes weren’t any good. Koufuku Graffiti had a perfectly serviceable episode this week. I feel like the show’s at its best when the focus is purely on Kirin and Ryou with a little bit of Shiina. The dynamic between the two of them is so much strong than the show’s other material and they really exemplify the theme that food is better when it’s shared. This episode had just the right balance of cute, silly and heartwarming moments and the result was undeniably satisfying. A stand out episode this was not, but it was nice all the same.
4. The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (Episode 10)
Cindrella Girls also had a nice, if not outstanding, episode this week. I’m not a huge fan of the younger idols in the “Dekoration” unit. Rika, as the sexually suggestive twelve year old is not a character type I’m a fan of and I can’t even remember the other girl’s name because she’s so unremarkable. She’s just “girl who hangs out with Rika a lot”. On the other hand, I did like seeing Kirari as the leader of the group as it added a new dimension to her character that we hadn’t seen before. That and the group being named “deko” in honor of their heights were both nice parts of this episode. (凸 = deko FYI. Finally a kanji joke I get!) But the real stars of the show this week were the Producer and Mika. Seeing P-san back as the endearingly awkward guy we saw in episode one was very nice and him getting arrested for taking pictures of the girls was pretty funny. Mika, on the other hand, stole the show through her fashion sense. She’s just a fun character to have around in addition to being really cute. I’ll take solid, not spectacular from this show every week if I can.
5. Kantai Collection: KanColle (Episode 11)
Similar to the move from number two to number three, number four to number five is another big step down. From the start of this episode of KanColle the tone felt off, almost as if it was an episode taken from the middle of another show. The battle we saw this week seemed to be built on a foundation that we never saw in this show. The only familiar thing about this episode was the feeling that KanColle is just checking off boxes as it cycles through all the popular ship girls yet again. The battle itself felt really sterile. There was no sense of urgency to it at all. It felt just like a show going through the motions without any real intensity to it. This was clearly supposed to be the build up to a grand finale but I just want the show to be over at this point.
6. Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! (Episode 11)
Speaking of mailed in episodes, it was back down to earth this week on Binan. The final showdown against the evil student council seems like it should be a big moment in the show but this episode actually felt really lazy. We got the full transformation sequences for every boy which took up way too much time and the jokes either weren’t funny or just weren’t there. I feel like the themed monsters that the group faced were more interesting than the more traditional foe they faced this week even if the conflict starting over curry was distinctly non-standard. That said, Binan’s easily outdone my modest expectations by this point so anything I get out of it next week is gravy.
7. Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata (Episode 10)
I will say this for Saekano, it isn’t shy about its true intentions. The camera focusing on the lewder parts of the girls has been an ongoing theme with this show but it was particularly blatant this week. The way it feels like you’re leering at this girls is really uncomfortable to me. I get what they were going for with the way Michiru messes with Tomoya but I think it needs a more talented staff that understands the concept of subtlety to pull it off. There is something to be said for Michiru and her brazen sexuality and I think like most of the girls in Saekano she could have shined in a better show with a more compelling male character. Unfortunately we’re stuck with this instead. Bleh.
8. Parasyte (Episode 23)
It felt like Parasyte had decided to go full on bad shounen this week with a painfully contrived battle sequences and blatant abuse of dramatic timing. The Goto fight hit on a lot of my pet peeves regarding fight construction and pacing. The characters constantly saying what they’re thinking rather than us simply being shown the fight is something that infuriates me to no end and the convenience first of Migi showing up and undermining Goto and then Shinichi finding a poisoned rod to stab Goto with was all too much. The weak attempt to cast Goto as some kind of environmentalist crusader in order to make the decision to destroy him seem difficult was a bridge too far for me. At least it’s almost over.
9. Shinmai Maou no Testament (Episode 11)
Speaking of shows that need to be over right now, Testament is still somehow a thing. The show’s basically been dead for weeks now but we still come back every week looking for something out of it and leave every week disappointed. If you like reading people make fun of bad anime you can check our comments on this episode out here.