In which the dream dies early this season.
1. Hibike! Euphonium (Episode 2)
It’s week two and we already have a new number one. This has more to do with Plastic Memories being terrible this week but we’ll get to that later. Plamemo’s struggles aside, Euphonium is shaping up to be KyoAni’s best effort since at least the first season of Chuunibyou if not since Hyouka. One thing that really stands out about the show is how different Kumiko is from a typical female main PoV character. Usually you get a wide-eyed girl who wants to make everybody happy like Ohana from Hanasaku Iroha or Potte from Tamayura. Kumiko, by contrast, reminds me more of Wakana from Tari Tari in how she avoids conflict and isn’t particularly enthusiastic about participating in anything, although I don’t expect her to carry the baggage Wakana did. Aside from its unique, well-defined main character, the supporting cast in Euphonium is absurdly entertaining. There’s a ton of variety to the cast and their diverse personalities really come out in the conversations they had in this episode. With sharp character writing, outstanding production values and a compelling main character there’s a lot to get excited about with Euphonium.
2. Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Episode 2)
I messed up a little with last week’s power rankings and reviewed episodes that were actually associated with this week’s APR. (The deadline is shows that are out before midnight EDT on Saturday if you’re curious) Just refer to my comments in last week’s post for how I feel about Kinmosa. The show’s great.
3. Show By Rock!! (Episode 2)
Ditto for Show By Rock.
4. Ore Monogatari (Episode 2)
I said last week that Ore Monogatari felt like a show that would avoid a lot of standard shoujo tropes and, whilee it still has a fairly novel premise, it does feel a bit like this will be yet another anime that stalls to avoid having any kind of resolution to the romantic tension as that would mean the end of the show. I understand Gouda’s reticence about believing anybody could have feelings for him given his history with Suna but it takes a special kind of density to not notice the signals Yamato was sending this week. I’ll let it slide for now but he needs to pick up on this sooner rather than later for this show to work. It’s a shame because aside from that I still really like the show. Gouda’s good-natured oafishness is actually really endearing when he isn’t being impossibly dense and I love the way Gouda and Suna’s friendship is portrayed. I’m still hopeful that Ore Monogatari can be something special but I have more reason for concern than I did last week.
5. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 15)
Really nice episode of UBW this week. The episode handled Illya’s history and the ultimate demise of Beserker with a level of grace I’ve come to expect from an Ufotable production. There’s plenty of space to get overly maudlin with a story of a little girl suffering but I didn’t feel that happened here. When Illya wasn’t being repeatedly beaten down by the world the fight was typically well choreographed even if the actual outcome was never really in doubt. UBW’s probably in for some rough patches in the future – as ParticularlyPeeved is quick to point out – but for now UBW is a really solid show.
6. Plastic Memories (Episode 3)
Plastic Memories tumbles all the way from number one to number six thanks to an absolutely awful episode that displayed the kind of awful, tired comedy I don’t generally expect from an anime original production like this. One of the biggest things Plamemo needed to do to succeed was maintain the dignity it had demonstrated in its premiere. If the show was actually going to give a mature and honest look at the process of coping with death and the implications of sentient technology it needed us to be able to take the characters seriously. There were some hints this may be an issue like the final scene of the first episode, but this episode took all that and stomped it into an unrecognizable mess. The “Oh my god, boys and girls living together! How will I protect this helpless damsel from this awful pervert?” trope is tired even in the best of cases and this wasn’t even a good version of it. There are so much more interesting things to explore in this show than worrying about what Tsukasa might do to Isla if he’s left alone with her for five minutes. Even if it was well done, the show just assumes that romance/physical intimacy between humans and giftia is common and expected. That seems like a strange assumption to make and was something I’d want the show to explore. It seems there would be a stigma surrounding such behavior but apparently not? The only reason this show isn’t lower is because there’s still some upside here if they go the KanColle route and pretend episode three never happened. Barring a complete about face expect Plamemo to fall even lower next week.
7. Houkago no Pleiades (Episode 2)
Houkago no Pleiades isn’t going to win any awards for originality (although the brooms sounding like cars is still an inspired choice) but what it lacks in unique ideas it makes up for in charm. I really like the way they’re developing Subaru and Aoi’s relationship, slowly revealing their history and showing us why they act this way around each other. The show is also filled with silly little moments like the process of teaching Subaru to use her drive shaft (not as lewd as it sounds) or Nanako translating for the pleiadeian in real time that make the show a lot of fun to watch. It’s not about to be a genre-defining classic but Pleiades is shaping up to be a perfectly serviceable magical girl show.
8. Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majou (Episode 1)
Any show that has Hayami Saori switching back and forth between using her typical calm, reserved voice and doing her best to imitate a delinquent boy suddenly trapped in a girl’s body is going to be a keeper. Even without Hayamin’s outstanding vocal work, Yamada-kun is the kind of show that really knows how to make good use of its central premise. The body swapping hijinks were perfectly used for comedic effect and the show just has a general levity and perverse sense of humor that’s really fun without being gross or offensive. It’s never going to be a particularly substantial work but Yamada-kun can still be a very solid show. You can read our reactions to episode one here.
9. Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha ViVid (Episode 3)
This episode of ViVid gave me nostalgia for Power Rangers of all things. Something about Einhard’s introduction to Vivio being a martial arts match reminded me of how every new character in the old Mighty Morphin’ series seemed to be introduced via officially sanctioned martial arts combat. Nostalgia for imported super sentai aside, ViVid feels pretty slow so far. It’s still cute and I like the way Vivio and Einhard mirror Nanoha and Fate from the original series, but I’d like for more substantial things to start happening soon.
10. Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku (Episode 2)
Mikagura seems like exactly the kind of mad hat “lol so random” comedy that I’d drop without a second thought (see: Punch Line). The thing is, the main character of Mikagura is a raging lesbian which, while it isn’t the most noble of reasons, still earns it a lot of points in my book. Mikagura might be a case study in whether yuri can save an otherwise bad show. Right now, signs point to no, but the yuri is keeping it on the watching list for at least one more week.
11. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episode 3)
I never thought I’d say this, but thank god Haruhi’s back. I couldn’t stand her in the original series but here she adds a spark of energy and purpose that the show was sorely lacking before. I think it’s true that things are just more fun with Haruhi around. Combine that with some well-timed call backs to the original series and Yuki-chan may yet turn into a decent slice of life comedy.
12. Re-Kan (Episode 3)
Re-Kan remains stubbornly on the border of being kept or being dropped. The production values and writing are still mostly sub-par but this episode actually had sustained storytelling which is a rarity in this format. The show keeps teasing me with just enough potential to keep me watching but not enough execution to keep it safely above the drop line. It’s probably Mikagura, Yuki-chan and Re-kan competing for two spots right now and Re-kan looks like the most likely drop. Hopefully one more week will sort things out for me.
13. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteriu Zoku (Episode 3)
My thoughts on Oregairu haven’t really changed since last week or since the first season. It’s an outstanding character study of a resentful, lonely teenager who is intelligent enough to see a lot of things the people around him don’t but not mature enough to know how to handle this knowledge. It’s also a character study I have very little interest in watching. It’s just too grim and unhappy for my taste. The relative positioning of Oregairu and Kiniro Mosaic should tell you everything you need to know about what I’m looking for in my anime.
14. Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka (Episode 3)
Hestia is still Bestia, Mochi is still wrong and this show is still really dumb but also kind of endearing. Our running commentary on this episode can be found here.