In which another season comes to a close.
I’m taking some liberties with episode counts here since by the time I get back from AX it will be time for summer shows already. Therefore we’re finishing off the spring season which means extra episodes for Yamada-kun and more importantly Hibike Euphonium which ended up taking up like half my post. Spring was a solid season with Euphonium and Ore Monogatari holding down the top of the rankings and Kiniro Mosaic putting in the strong showing I expected from it. Some of the surprises fell back to earth and some of the duds ended up surprising by the end leaving us with a nice mix of shows. So here we go with the final rankings of the spring season:
1. Hibike! Euphonium (Episode 12, 13) [END]
It feels strange given she’s been the point of view character the entire show but this was the first time we really had what felt like a Kumiko-centric episode of Euphonium. Previous episodes all seemed to focus on the people around Kumiko with Kumiko more reacting to the things around her than anything else. This episode, by contrast, was all Kumiko all the time and it was an excellent look inside her psyche. The episode felt very personal on a level none of the previous episodes did and we got up close to the point where the show gave off an almost suffocating and oppressive vibe with the way it framed some of its shots. I loved the growth we saw from Kumiko as she finally finds something to be passionate about after eleven episodes of mostly just going with the flow. The show did a great job of making her fear of simply drifting away from music without accomplishing anything very real and that made us invested in her newfound resolve to excel at Euphonium while she still can. This made Taki assigning the difficult Euphonium part only to Asuka all the more devastating since we were suddenly robbed of something special. This show is so good at making the characters’ triumphs and failures really have an impact and I love it for that. With only one episode left I don’t expect much of a conclusion but whatever we get it’s been a hell of a ride and I’m glad to see KyoAni back to their old selves.
This wasn’t really a conclusion to Euphonium but I don’t think it was ever meant to be one. This felt a lot more like the end of the first half of a split cour show rather than a series finale. (And, if the rumors are to be believed, there is more in the works.) To focus on the actual episode: the performance itself was typically spectacular KyoAni work. The instruments glistened, the music soared and there were all sorts of little unspoken touches that brought everything we had seen out of this cast together for one last hurrah. We got some great moments from everybody in this large and varied cast. Asuka appeared almost genuine at times, especially during her frank conversation with Kumiko. Shuuichi and Kumiko seemed to be returning to some semblance of normalcy after things had gotten awkward between them. Taki-sensei’s nervousness prior to the performance was endearing and then he excelled when his full passion was on display during the performance. Natsuki remained a force to be reckoned with and I’m very glad that she didn’t just disappear following her failed audition. The Natsuki x Ribbon-chan ship is strong. And, of course, every bit of Kumiko/Reina interaction was magical like it has been the entire show.
And it’s that right there which makes it hard for me to step back and evaluate this show as a whole. The production from top to bottom was vintage 2010-2012 KyoAni with the attention to detail and overall direction at levels I haven’t seen since Hyouka. All the characters that got any screen time at all felt well rounded and the show had an incredible number of layered personalities from the core of Kumiko/Reina/Hazuki/Sapphire out to Haruka, Asuka, Kaori, Natsuki and Yuuko. Female-led ensemble shows like this represent one of my favorite genres (just ask Tari Tari and Hanasaku Iroha) and Euphonium hits all of that out of the park.
But I can’t limit my evaluation of Euphonium to just that because my feelings about the show are so tied up in my feelings about Kumiko and Reina’s relationship. The show was good for the first seven episodes (it was number one in my rankings four of the seven weeks) but episode eight changed everything for better and for worse and I’ve had a hard time pinning down my feelings about the show ever since. It’s a complicated situation to the point where I have trouble understanding my own feelings about it all. Seeing Kumiko and Reina grow close over the course of the show was my favorite part of the Euphonium experience but also something that made every episode a roller coaster where you’re never sure if the next moment is going to take that magical feeling away from you. Is it fair for me to pin all of my hopes for this show on this one aspect of it? Probably not, but for reasons I haven’t yet completely made sense of, my reaction to each episode after episode eight seemed to come down to how much it reinforced a romantic dynamic between Kumiko and Reina.
This is also why I both want and fear a sequel. I love all of these characters dearly and very much want to see more of them but at the same time every additional episode or even a potential movie just represents another chance for this to fall apart. It’s probably not fair of me to put the burden of an entire medium’s failure to deal with homosexual relationships in a mature manner on a single show or studio but this is where we are and Euphonium just happens to be the show at the center of this debate right now. I’ll give you guys a numeric rating because that’s what I do but I hope I’ve made it clear that my feelings about this show are much more complicated than a single number can convey.
Final-ish Verdict: 8/10
2. Ore Monogatari (Episode 12)
What else is there to say about Ore Monogatari each week? Yamato and Takeo are adorable, the show is as kind-hearted as you could ever ask for and it’s consistently laugh out loud funny to boot. I loved the way Takeo’s parents reacted to the revelation that he now has a girlfriend. It was fun to see how parents can get worked up just like their children over these things. The study sessions and eventual reveal at the end of the episode were further evidence of how well this cast is constructed. Takeo, Suna and Yamato just fit together perfectly in a way few anime romance casts do. Week after week Ore Monogatari shows us that there’s room for an idealistic anime romance without all the “will they or won’t they” angst we typically get. It might not be the most profound examination of high school romance in the anime world but it’s a ton of fun all the same.
3. Hello!! Kiniro Mosaic (Episode 12) [END]
This was a nice finale to Kiniro Mosaic. I enjoyed seeing the other side of last episode’s story with Alice being distraught over her lack of contact with Shino just like Shino was in episode eleven. Their eventual reunion was well done and there were some funny moments in between. It kind of felt like the show should have ended there but we had eight minutes left so there was some extra material tacked on at the end. Like a lot of this season of Kinmosa it was agreeable but nothing outstanding. Overall I’d call this season a marginal step down from the first but it had a few episodes that reminded me why I enjoy this show so much. It might not rank among the pantheon of great slice of life comedies but Kiniro Mosaic’s second season was still quality comfort food and that’s about all I could have expected from it.
Final Verdict: 7/10
4. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episode 13)
While apparently not the end of the show, this was the end of the “disappearance” arc of the anime and it provided a fitting conclusion to what has easily been the show’s best material. This entire arc has felt extremely intimate and personal but this episode even more so as we accompanied the girl I’ll call “Melancholy Yuki” as she grappled with her impending replacement by “Disappearance Yuki”. To those around her it’s just a simple reversion of her personality but to Melancholy Yuki it really was as if she was about to die. The result was an episode that took a very somber tone as Melancholy Yuki got all of her affairs in order before she finally slipped away. The dignity the characters have had over these recent episodes lent much more emotional weight to this process than anything we got in the earlier episodes. I’m not sure how the show follows this up but at least if nothing else Yuki-chan showed us it can be soulful and profound when it wants to be.
5. Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru. Zoku (Episode 13) [END]
Oregairu’s second season draws to a close and I appreciate how it slowed things down and returned us to the original trio for most of the episode. I’ve generally felt like the romance in Oregairu is more of an obligatory distraction because you have a boy and two girls in the same room and the rules say you need romantic tension so I didn’t exactly love this episode. Still, shipping wars aside this did work very well as a culmination of what these characters have been working towards the past two seasons. We see how they’re willing to make themselves vulnerable to each other in a way they weren’t able to when the story began. Hachiman might not have found something completely genuine yet, but he’s getting there and their long struggle towards emotional honesty will go on. Oregairu’s second season was certainly a step up from the first and while I don’t think it ever got back to the heights of episode eight, the final few episodes were still some of the show’s strongest material. I didn’t fall in love with the show the way some people did, maybe if it had come out when I was a few years younger I might have connected with it more. Whatever the reason, Oregairu never got out of that mode of being a show I wanted to like more than I actually liked it. There are worse fates than that I suppose but I still wish I could have enjoyed it as much as other people did.
Final Verdict: 7/10
6. Show By Rock (Episode 12) [END]
Show By Rock ends like it began with a musical battle against a big scary monster and Cyan trying to overcome her fears in order to join a band. The finale, like the rest of the show, wasn’t particularly remarkable but was fun while it lasted. There were a few visual flourishes to be had when the CG was turned off that made this episode enjoyable if not outstanding. Overall, SBR easily exceeded expectations and I think showed it deserved to be my dark horse pick going into the season. It never really had enough in the tank to reach the top tier of spring anime but for an anime based on a mobile rhythm game it’s hard to ask for much more than we got.
Final Verdict: 6/10
7. Yamada-kun to Nananin no Majou (Episode 11, 12) [END]
Yamada-kun finally stumbles across the finish line offering a conclusion (I guess?) It was kind of hard to follow what was going on near the end and the show overall struggled with pacing issues. Maybe a more talented staff could have made it work but the end result with Yamada-kun was a muddled show that was funnier than it was coherent. I went in not expecting much and basically got that so I guess I can’t complain.
Final Verdict: 5/10
8. Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works (Episode 25) [END]
That was a perfectly reasonable coda to a very imperfect anime. It did a good job of wrapping up all the character arcs and it had a couple cameos from characters in other Fate properties outside the original FSN world. This was probably a little longer than it needed to be but not oppressively so. Rin and Shirou just being a comfy couple can get you quite a bit of mileage and that worked well to keep the episode from dragging. Overall UBW was a flawed work but I knew that going in. Ufotable did what they could but there were some narrative and pacing choices that were just too much to overcome. The show felt at times like it was running in circles repeating the same tired refrains about ideals and heroism that had already been pounded into our brains for several episodes. Production-wise ufotable was their typical stellar selves and that can forgive a lot of flaws that made the visual novel even more of a chore than the anime. It wasn’t a good show, but you tried UBW, you tried.
Final Verdict: 5/10
9. Houkago no Pleiades (Episode 12) [END]
Well that was a pretty undignified ending for Pleiades. The show seemed to think you can mumble a few physics terms and throw around some talk of potential and destiny and call it a show. I can’t say I expected much from the decaying husk that was once Gainax making a twelve episode Subaru commercial but this really felt like there was more there than we ended up getting out of this show. I really wanted to like this show and for a few episodes it was a solid of not spectacular magical girl show but it just got progressively less comprehensible as things went along. To call it a disappointment given the minimal expectations I had going in would probably be unfair but I do feel a bit of sorrow as I walk away from this one.
Final Verdict: 4/10