In which things are… a bit late.
Sorry for the delay on power rankings this week. Hopefully our summer season preview post has kept you busy in the meantime. The spring season is winding down and I’m personally quite ready for a new crop of shows. I’ll miss a couple shows at the top but Ore Monogatari is thankfully continuing into summer and the shows behind the top two or three are mostly forgettable. Anyway, let’s talk about those shows for the next to last time:
1. Hibike! Euphonium (Episode 11)
Hibike Euphonium is starting to remind me a bit of Shirobako in its ability to take a character we don’t know much about and in the space of an episode – or even half an episode – give them a relatable story that feels genuinely human. This week it was Yuuko’s turn (or Ribbon-chan if you prefer). As viewers we’re obviously expected to side with Reina and Kumiko here but this episode did a really good job of showing us that Yuuko is more than just a little brat and actually has valid reasons to be so insistent about Kaori playing the trumpet solo. She still kind of bratty but the instinct to stand up for somebody you feel is being wronged and not standing up for themselves is very understandable. Reina, to her credit, didn’t back down. Honestly I’m not sure she even knows how to back down. I still question the overall decision to have a second audition and let the students openly choose the soloist. You can argue that Taki-sensei had two basically equally good options so the ultimate decision wouldn’t really affect the band’s performance. That said, if you think he genuinely believes that Reina is the stronger soloist then he seemed to leave a lot up to chance here. There were lots of moving parts in this process, very few of which he had direct control over and it didn’t feel like he had much of a plan. Then again, maybe that’s the point. He’s a young teacher that doesn’t really know what he’s doing yet. I guess the point is that I have mixed feelings about the whole ordeal.
We also got some really nice scenes from Asuka who remains a fascinating character even as her “miss perfect” persona starts to fall apart in front of us. At the same time Asuka being aggressively neutral provides an opportunity for Haruka to grow and I’m glad to see she’s taking it. Euphonium excels at showing the bond the third-years have developed during their time in this school and even though we haven’t seen them together for long you can tell there’s a shared history among all of these characters.
Finally, I suppose I should give an update on the yuri front. The scene between Kumiko and Reina immediately prior to the second audition was, like the scene in episode eight, incredibly romantically charged to the point where there’s unmistakably something there. On the one hand, if Euphonium follows the pattern of most other shows that do this then I would have to find these moments incredibly cruel. On the other hand, it does raise some hope that Euphonium could be the show that actually bucks the trend and doesn’t back away from this even after offering a way out. I’m trying to keep myself from getting my hopes up but it’s also difficult to imagine a show that’s so good at everything else just throwing these amazingly written and incredibly charged moments in without intending to do anything with them. Time will tell I suppose.
2. Ore Monogatari (Episode 11)
More of the same this week from Ore Monogatari. The show is incredibly endearing and I continue to love seeing Takeo and Yamato gush over each other but it feels like I end up writing the same thing here each week. Takeo makes great faces, Yamato’s physical and emotional attachment to him is refreshing and the show overall is full of a kindness and earnestness I wish more shows possessed. It may be the same each week but with Ore Monogatari that’s okay.
3. Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Episode 11)
Given how much she raises the quality of this show I’m kind of disappointed Kiniro Mosaic hasn’t used Honoka more this season. It’s possible that her value only stays high when she’s used only in short bursts but I really feel like this season could have used more of her. The second half of the episode was a lot of fun as well and reinforces me theory that three is the optimal cast size for extended scenes in shows like this. The sleepover with Shino, Aya and Yoko reminded me a lot of the study session with Cocoa, Sharo and Chiya in GochiUsa which was one of that show’s strongest episodes. I think the lesson here is we need more Yuyushiki. Cries for second seasons we’ll never get aside, the post credits scene was also a lot of fun. It was no pirate Karen musical but it still had a lot of the same charm. Even if it doesn’t always hit things out of the park, Kiniro Mosaic is still a fun little show and I’ll miss when it’s gone.
4. Show By Rock (Episode 11)
We got the set up to the big, final showdown this week and I have to say it – like most of the recent episodes – was kind of underwhelming. They went back to the full CG battles that made the premiere interesting but I feel like it’s kind of lost its novelty at this point. Show By Rock just doesn’t have the characters or the writing to create a really meaningful moment and spectacle can only get you so far. Still, I’m curious what they’re going to do to get Logia out of that monster so maybe the finale will be worthwhile.
5. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episode 12)
Man, after all their struggles with typical slice of life shenanigans, the team working on Yuki-chan is really hitting this arc out of the park. The way the show gets into Nagato’s head is incredibly effective at evoking her feelings of confusion and aimlessness. The sudden bouts of static and the echoes of Yuki-chan in Nagato’s dreams help create this uncomfortable atmosphere that makes Nagato’s struggle very personal and immediate. That combined with the condensed cast that consisted almost entirely of Nagato and Kyon this week really allowed the show to directly focus on what’s going on in Nagato’s headspace. It’s a shame a lot of people probably dropped the show because what we have now is fascinating to watch. Here’s hoping the last four episodes can keep it up.
6. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku (Episode 12)
Kind of an up and down episode this week for Oregairu. There were several moments this week where it felt much more harem-y than this show typically feels. It was like the girls were playing tug of war with Hachiman in a way you’d expect from lesser light novel adaptations but not from Oregairu. These moments were contrasted with some very strong moments from Yui. More so than any time in this series except maybe the end of episode four you could feel Yui confronting the fact that her feelings for Hachiman just aren’t going to be returned. That feeling of despair as she realizes that while they may be working towards something more genuine, that doesn’t leave her any closer to what she wants. The other strong parts of this episode involved Yukino’s family. Both Haruno and her mother are thorns in her side but for completely different reasons. Haruno is simply a person who revels in picking on people’s weaknesses and builds herself up by making others feel bad. She’s certainly more knowledgeable and worldly than the main trio but not much more mature. She provides an interesting contrast to sensei who works to build them up and make them feel good for the progress they’ve made rather than working to make them feel bad for their weaknesses and all the work they have left to do. Yukino’s mother, by contrast, means well but seems to have a hard time not suffocating her daughter. She fits really well in the role of a high class mother who wants the best for her daughter but is also worried about making sure her daughter never has a chance to screw up. She probably would say it’s for Yukino’s benefit but it’s just as much if not more to her benefit to keep Yukino on the very straight and narrow. Anyway, the point is that Oregairu’s characterization continues to be superb even when episodes have a down moment here or there. It’s a very solid show.
7. Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majou (Episode 10)
This week on Yamada-kun we had a new with, more NTR bullshit and sudden memory loss. The show’s kind of limping towards the finish but it’s good for a fun scene or two every week.
8. Houkago no Pleiades (Episode 11)
Pleiades continues to be a nice little show that just simply isn’t all the way there. The episode continued to play with the idea of potential and finding a path for yourself as well as throwing in some nice moments with Subaru dealing with the inevitability of change. Unfortunately those ideas aren’t quite fully realized and the plot itself just doesn’t hold together. This week was especially weak on that front as Subaru lost her powers early on because of some vague issue related to her potential but after making a big show about how there’s no turning back suddenly she gets her powers back at the end because… well, it’s not clear why. I wanted to believe there was something there with Pleiades but it seems like Gainax’s current incarnation isn’t up to the task of putting it all together.
9. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 24)
That was actually a pretty nice way to wrap up all there character arcs in UBW. Getting there was a freaking chore but I enjoyed that finale more than anything from UBW in at least 6 or 7 weeks. Some of the specific plot points felts kind of arbitrary but the overall package was pleasing and there was plenty of ufotable visual flair. I thought this was going to be the end but apparently there’s another episode next week? I’m not sure what it will be since the UBW route in the VN ends with that scene between Rin and Archer on the hill. I hope it will be a silly Carnival Phantasm style episode but I doubt we’ll be so lucky.