In which glasses save the day, again.
I may have spoken too soon last week when I declared the top tier to be three deep. Show By Rock really stepped things up this week and now I think has earned a spot in the first tier alongside the previous top three. Further down things are kind of falling apart (aside from a surprising performance by Oregairu) but if the that top group of four can hold things together this can still be a solid season. To the rankings:
1. Hibike! Euphonium (Episode 5)
Euphonium gave us a better idea of what kind of show it wants to be with the pacing choices this week. We blasted through the SunFes preparation and performance as they put content that could easily have filled two episodes if they wanted it to into a single episode instead. On the one hand, I do like the fact that Euphonium seems determined to show us a lot of this band’s journey towards nationals rather than simply giving us a taste but never concluding. On the other hand, I kind of preferred the more understated character moments of the first half to the SunFes portion of the episode and the more events the show wants to get through the less time it can spend on these moments. I really like seeing how Kumiko is growing. She still has trouble reading social situations and there’s an obvious conflict between how she wants to act and how she feels she should act around others. This comes out in the way she struggles with whether to call Aoi “-senpai” or “-chan” as well as her continued awkwardness around Kousaka. Kousaka also had some great moments this week, showing us that she has a soft, caring side in addition to her intensity. She’s a difficult girl to make sense of, especially for somebody like Kumiko, but their relationship is developing. I really enjoy the little non-verbal touches KyoAni is including here that show us how the characters are feeling. Things like Kumiko clenching her fists and jumping as Kousaka walks away help reinforce what we’re getting from the dialog. Euphonium really gets its characters in a way few other shows do and I continue to hold it in very high regard because of that.
2. Ore Monogatari (Episode 5)
This show is going to be the death of me. I love the fact that Ore Monogatari is dealing with the trials that come after a romantic relationship has been established, but at the same time the feeling of uncertainty that comes when you know your significant other has a secret but you aren’t sure what it is is the kind of thing that will tie you up in knots. Gouda’s struggle to understand Yamato and the difficulties both of them go through trying to navigate their first relationship is exactly what I want to see out of this show. The conflict here feels much more genuine and natural than the manufactured “will they or won’t they?” that we typically get. I have some minor concerns that the issue of Yamato’s secret could get dragged out but we all know what happened last time I was worried about Ore Monogatari dragging something out. This show is still great.
3. Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Episode 5)
Pretty standard episode of Kiniro Mosaic this week. I liked how the episode was broken into two halves the each followed a single storyline. It’s a strategy the show’s employed before, especially in the first season, and it really helps hold the episode together compared to just a series of short gags with nothing there to connect them. There were a lot of fun moments like all the girls trying on glasses or Karen confusing Kuzehashi-sensei by saying she’s taking her pictures “for money.” If nothing else this show always has its sense of humor to fall back on. The second half of the episode was quite funny as we saw Alice playing her own version of “straw millionaire”. In general I like how this season is incorporating new characters to keep things fresh. We saw a lot of Kuzehashi-sensei early on, we got more of Isami this week and now it looks like Karen’s friend Honoka is going to get more screen time. This type of cast expansion is a tried and true staple of cute slice of life anime. Kinmosa is following a well-worn path rather than being something groundbreaking but pushing genre boundaries has never been Kinmosa’s goal. The show is content to deal in the standard 4koma slice of life formula and as long as it continues execute it this well I’m happy.
4. Show By Rock (Episode 5)
This was a really solid episode of Show By Rock. It seems like as soon as I pointed out how the show had lost some of its momentum they kicked things up a notch. The episode opened with the return of the monsters we saw in the premiere which immediately gave the episode a level of intensity that had been lacking in previous episodes. This was accompanied by some really nice moments between Cyan and Retoree. I’m glad that Retoree’s behavior seems to be becoming more than just “blushes a lot around Cyan and snaps pictures.” There’s a real connection growing between the two of them which makes me very happy. The second half of the episode was probably the best part of the show so far. I’m glad that they’re dealing with the issue of Cyan’s home world now rather than leaving it until the very end of the show. There were a few times there I was afraid Chuchu wouldn’t be able to confront the issue but the final scene delivered a dramatic punch that I didn’t think this show was capable of. Maybe Show By Rock can actually aspire to be more than just cute, silly fun.
5. Houkago no Pleiades (Episode 5)
Pleiades continues to display some really solid ideas that aren’t ever quite fully realized. The central conceit of this episode involving Itsuki’s lingering guilt over the trouble she caused her brother and family as a child. It’s surprising to get episodes dealing with these very real conflicts out of a magical girl show sponsored by a car company but I’m glad we are getting it. The actual combat is still mediocre at best which brings the overall package down a bit. I’m also a bit miffed that the show is denying my favorite ship by casting Aoi and Itsuki in the Princess/Prince roles rather than putting Aoi together with Subaru. Be that as it may, Pleaides is still a pleasant surprise that’s exceeding very modest expectations.
6. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteriu. Zoku (Episode 6)
This episode was actually a lot of fun. Oregairu really needed this after how grim the past few episodes had gotten. Hachiman certainly wasn’t enjoying himself, but seeing the way the students from the other school spout meaningless business buzz words while not actually saying anything was very funny. You can’t help but feel sorry for Hachiman as he struggles to deal with these guys and their meaningless platitudes but he set himself up for this when he let Iroha get elected and then refused to accept any help from Yui and Yukino. If Oregairu can combine its usual sharp character work with some humor like this to add levity to an otherwise dark situation I think there might be some hope for it after all.
7. Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majou (Episode 4)
Yamada’s body switching power is gone. Show ruined. You can read about this terrible injustice here.
8. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 18)
It was time for the big reveal and to be honest I find it a bit underwhelming. Maybe it’s because I already knew the secret and I’m also dreading what comes next but I didn’t feel the impact an episode like this should have generated. The episode itself was perfectly fine but they’ve written themselves into a corner with Shirou going up against Archer (Shirou) with no good way out. Normally I’d be eager to see how they manage to get out of this but having already played the visual novel I know it isn’t pretty. Regardless, we’re three quarters of the way home. I can do this.
9. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episode 6)
And we’re back to what feels like mediocre fanfiction drawn out to anime episode length. The production values in Yuki-chan were never a strong point but they felt especially poor this week. The humor mostly misses me and all that’s left is the occasional funny face. If the show didn’t have the characters from Haruhi I’m not sure anybody would bother watching it.
10. Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou ka (Episode 6)
I missed the group watch this week because I was travelling (not sure if there will be a post for that or not). The main take away from this episode was that it had giant killer ants and therefore gave me the jibblies. I don’t like it when shows give me the jibblies.