In which anime tries to kill me with cuteness.
It’s a three-horse race for the top spot at this point as Ore Monogatari, Euphonium and Kiniro Mosaic have separated themselves from the field. Show By Rock is still solid but then there’s a whole bunch of middling shows shuffling around behind it. Let’s get to it:
1. Ore Monogatari (Episode 4)
My god, this show is just too adorable. Gouda and Yamato are completely wonderful together and it makes me wish more shows could be like this with two characters actually getting a chance to be a couple. It helps that I absolutely love Ore Monogatari’s sense of humor. The way it plays Gouda’s good-natured cluelessness off of Yamato’s extreme kindness is a ton of fun and I find myself laughing right along with Suna. The sequence at the restaurant started out very genuine, and dealt with the very real issue of how somebody’s friends react to their significant other. I thought the conclusion with the fire might have been a bit much, but when a show is this sweet and endearing I’ll give it a little leeway in terms of realism in how it resolves these things. Ore Monogatari’s heart is in the right place and that’s what matters. This show is a treasure.
2. Hibike! Euphonium (Episode 4)
Euphonium continues to chug along, solid as ever. This week we finally got to see Taki-sensei’s instruction and it was as impressive as I expected. We saw a great variety in his techniques as he pushed the students who didn’t seem interested in trying and supported the students who were less experienced but putting in full effort. Even though this is his first time leading a concert band he seemed like a veteran with the way he knew exactly how to handle each group to get the results he wanted. This did result in some sulking but he was quick to point out that this is the path they chose. If having fun was all that mattered then they could have voted to have fun and not go to nationals. It drives home the point that nothing in his instruction is one size fits all. He adjusts his tactics based on the specific students he’s working with and the goals of the group as a whole, which is the mark of a good instructor. When Taki-sensei wasn’t impressing me, Kumiko was actually showing some growth. It looked like she might withdraw into herself yet again after Kousaka snapped at her and Shuuichi, and to be honest I wouldn’t really have blamed her. Kousaka’s readily demonstrated why Kumiko was afraid of her in the first place with the way she tore into them. To her credit though, Kumiko got up the courage to say her piece to Kousaka and even though it was nerve wracking and she felt the need to run away immediately after, she did admit “it felt a little bit good.” This newfound assertiveness was on display again almost immediately as Kumiko took it upon herself to bring the detached Nakagawa back into the bass group. Overall it was a more understated episode than the first three but I loved all the little character moments like these that gave us a little bit more insight into the group or showed us how these characters are changing through this experience. Euphonium is top notch.
3. Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Episode 4)
Kind of a weaker episode for Kinmosa this week. This episode felt very disjointed and the show’s 4koma roots were very apparent as it sort of aimlessly wandered from gag to gag without any smooth transitions between them. While the overall episode construction was lacking, some of the jokes themselves were very good which helped to make up for it. Alice and Ayaya’s attempts to be delinquents were a highlight as was Alice’s Shino pillow. The closing scene was very sweet and tied up the episode nicely which left me with a good feeling as the credits rolled. It’s nice to know even a weak episode of Kiniro Mosaic is still a lot of fun.
4. Show By Rock!! (Episode 4)
I feel like Show By Rock is starting to lose some of its momentum. The concerts still really have that sense of spectacle you want from a big performance and I still like the show’s sense of humor (the Tonkotsu Ramen song this week was particularly funny) but overall there seems to be a lot of downtime in the last couple episodes. That said, while every moment might not be as immediately compelling as the premiere was, I like what they’re setting up here. I’m glad the show hasn’t gone for a monster of the week format and instead is rewarding us with some actual time spent showing the girls grow closer together. Moa’s scene at the end in particular was very poignant and really makes you want to see Plasmagica succeed. There’s obviously trouble on the horizon from several angles so I expect the show to get out of this lull soon. While there are arguments in favor of this more mellow, slow-paced version of Show By Rock I’m still looking forward to the chaos ahead.
5. Houkago no Pleiades (Episode 4)
Pleiades is still a really hard show to pin down. It seems to have a lot of interesting concepts but lacks the writing/directing staff to pull them off. Hikaru’s story this week was really sweet, or at least it seemed like it should have been sweet. The story never really came together the way I thought it should. In a way, it feels like the issues the current version of Gainax has are the opposite of the “classic” version that gets all the praise. Old Gainax had very talented directors/writers/animators that made shows based on concepts I have very little interest in with a style that I found off-putting. Now all the talent is gone but they’re actually making things I’m interested in. I dunno if that makes me the lowest common denominator that studios without actual talent pander to or what. The point – I think – is that Houkago no Pleiades feels like it should be a better show than it is but the execution reminds us that this is actually just a strange hybrid between an anime and a car commercial and the artistic effort just isn’t going to be there. Could be worse I suppose.
6. Yamada-kun to Nana-nin no Majo (Episode 3)
There were microwaves and arguments about glasses this week. Yamada-kun is stupid fun, what do you want? You can check out our running commentary here.
7. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 17)
It was a combat-centric episode of UBW this week which isn’t generally good news. The production values were stellar as always but these episodes don’t do much for me beyond that. If it was all fancy digital effects and well-choreographed fights sequences I would have just shrugged and moved on to next week but what stood out to me was how goddamn cheesy the dialog was this week. Rin’s initial conversation with Caster and then later Lancer and Archer’s verbal sparring had me asking: “Are you actually saying these things right now? Is Nasu for real? Who even talks like this?” This has always been a problem with FSN to be sure, but it was really bad this week. Whatever, seven episodes ‘til we’re done. No sense in stopping now.
8. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episode 5)
I’d call this an acceptable conclusion to the romantic tension set up by last week’s episode. I was afraid that this show would get bogged down in angsty love triangle nonsense, which is not a good look for this show. I like dramatic romance anime as much as anyone but it would have felt out of place in a show like this. The show’s still very cute and endearing and Yuki finally had some really nice moments with Kyon this week. I’d prefer for the show to not deal in romance at all but this is the show we’ve got and it’s still pretty good.
9. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy was Machigatteiru. Zoku (Episode 5)
So apparently the secret to getting me to enjoy Oregairu is throwing in some family themes. I really liked the opening two scenes between Hachiman and Komachi. The show did an excellent job of showing the connection they share even if they’re occasionally standoffish with each other as siblings tend to be. There’s a level of comfort on display when Hachiman’s with his sister that we don’t see from him anywhere else and it provides a nice contrast with how tense he is everywhere else. The show needs more moments like that to moderate the suffering that pervades this show. The rest of the episode was fine, as far as it goes. I still don’t particularly like the show, but I do think this was my favorite episode of the second season so far.
10. Plastic Memories (Episode 5)
I knew plastic memories wasn’t going to be the show I wanted it to be but I’m a little amazed at how little interest it has in dealing with any of the issues I hoped would deal with. I wanted a grounded drama about how humans deal with loss and the validity of artificial emotions. Instead we got… some kind of zombie robot apocalypse? This episode was a mess from the start and the longer the show goes on the more it feels like the decisions that were made in building this universe weren’t made with the goal of creating a coherent, internally consistent world but rather one where everything is designed to cause MAXIMUM DRAMA. Why would the giftia have the potential for superhuman strength? How would you end up with a design where the only thing limiting that strength wears out exactly when the giftia become erratic and unpredictable? Who approved such a design? This is on top of the previously acknowledged fact that the giftia don’t feel like androids at all and their status as non-human seems to only be a plot convenience so that the author can kill them off and make things sad. I don’t think there’s much point is me continuing with this show since it’s just going to make me mad. Dropped.
12. Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka (Episode 5)
I honestly don’t remember what happened on DanMachi this week. It was probably dumb. Our running commentary will be up soon so you can figure out what happened then.