In which a season that seemed weak maybe isn’t so weak?
1. Classroom Crisis (Episode 3)
Classroom Crisis rolls on with another quality episode. I really like the way this episode showed us that Sera isn’t the completely perfect leader of the great minds of tomorrow but rather a flawed man with his own personal blind spots and weaknesses. His meeting with Nagisa this episode made it abundantly clear that he has spent his entire life focused on ideas and new inventions and not on practical applications or financial concerns. He’s a man who believes in dreams and innovations for their own sake and finds himself at odds with somebody like Nagisa for whom the most important thing is the bottom line. I’m mixed on the introduction of Angelina. She was a lot of fun this week, but at times she feels like a gag character in a show that doesn’t really need gag characters. Still, she has a role to fill as the face of A-TEC’s budget cutting process and she does a good job of giving Sera a reality check. Now it’s up to Sera and the remainder of A-TEC to do what they can with the hand they’ve been dealt. I love what Classroom Crisis has built over the first three episodes and at this point it looks like the (semi)surprise hit of the season.
2. Charlotte (Episode 3)
Nice episode of Charlotte this week as we were introduced to the final member of the main cast (assuming the promo art is to be believed). This episode was heavy on the KEY-isms for better or worse. I liked Joujirou going into full idol fanboy mode at the prospect of meeting Nishimori Yusa. Seeing him beat his head against the wall after discovering what happens when she gets possessed by her sister was probably my favorite part of the episode, at least from a comedy perspective. I thought Yusa (Misa)’s confrontation with the thugs chasing her was very well executed and did a nice job of incorporating all the characters abilities into an entertaining spectacle. The reveal of the circumstances surrounding Misa’s death was Maeda Jun drama at its most ham-handed though as he layered sob story upon sob story to try and get a reaction out of the viewer. I mostly shrugged it off since it was conceptually compelling but not at all earned given we just met these characters. It’s not great but I put up with it because I like the other parts of his shows. Overall this was an enjoyable episode but it shows that Maeda hasn’t move away from his bad habits.
3. Ore Monogatari (Episode 15)
Just when I think Ore Monogatari is out of tricks, it throws me a curve. This episode’s plot was more like a slight wrinkle to the existing formula rather than a wholesale overhaul but the change was needed for a show that felt kind of stagnant at this point. I liked how this week’s plot showed a slightly darker side to Yamato. Her relationship with Takeo is still all bubbles and sparkles but her jealousy in this episode was anything but sweet and full of kindness. The show’s still idealized but I like that it is dealing with some of the issues that face people in their first serious relationship. Yamato just doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings when she sees Takeo around another girl and it creates a very relatable story in a show that’s been veering towards the absurd lately. I’m kind of concerned by how neatly this issue seemed to be resolved though. I hope that this is an ongoing issue because Mariya declaring she just like Takeo “as a person” feels too easy. I’m giving an incomplete grade for this right now but it feels like a step in the right direction.
4. Non Non Biyori Repeat (Episode 2)
Non Non Biyori continues the strange choice of completely starting over rather than continuing from where season one left off. I can’t complain too much because all the elements that made season one good are still here. The A-part of this episode was another example of the simple pleasures of rural life. What could be simpler than making a game from just your pens and rulers of various shapes and sizes? The entire sequence maintained momentum well without getting stale before the big finish. The B-part was a really nice sequence with Hotaru and Koma-chan that was Non Non at its most immersive and atmospheric. The entire stargazing trip perfectly evoked the feeling of a warm summer evening in the country. Whatever the reason for the reset — maybe they’re taking the “repeat in the title seriously – Non Non Biyori is still a great way to relax each week.
5. Working!!! (Episode 3)
Oh my god! Something happened this week! And not in the narrow-minded “nothing happens in slice of life anime” sense. The Jun/Yachiyo date was something we’d been waiting for since about halfway through season one and finally seeing it happen was a game changer in every sense of the word. I was hoping we’d start seeing progress like this given the manga is complete and it’s nice to see that starting to happen here. I don’t know how seriously we’re to take that “confession’ that occurred but I’m glad to see things finally moving forward. Yamada’s quest for Takanashi head pats in the other half of the episode was fun in its own way as most things involving Yamada are. I’d take that on its own and be happy in most weeks but given what was going on with Jun and Yachiyo it ended up as more of a sideshow than anything. I’m not sure I’m ready to say Working is completely back into top form but it’s certainly ahead of where it was a week ago.
6. ShimoSeka (Episode 3)
This show is insane and I love it. I actually watched this in between flights at the airport last weekend and I don’t have notes so I can’t really recall my specific thoughts on this episode other than Arai Satomi is great and that ending was bonkers. We’re three episodes in and ShimoSeka shows no signs of slowing down. Let’s hope it can keep that momentum going.
7. Jokumachi no Dandelion (Episode 2)
For an episode and a half I was waiting for Dandelion to show me something and then the Hana portion of this episode delivered. The budding romance between her and Shuu was completely adorable and beautifully set up. Who says het romance can’t make your heart melt? While I get the feeling that this was more of a one-off story than an ongoing thing, it shows off Yoshida Reiko’s ability as a series composer and demonstrates the potential in Dandelion. I feel like this show is something that will grow on me the more familiar I get with the characters. We’re still in the process of establishing each of the family members but so far I do like what I see. While it couldn’t compare to the sugary sweetness of the second half, I did enjoy Akane and Kanade going to school together. This part was very effective at building up Kanade as a no-nonsense older sister who is pretty tired of Akane’s overly timid antics but at the same time can’t help but love her little sister despite her flaws. Akane herself continues to be incredibly cute. Every time I think her fear of the cameras is wearing thin she makes some kind of face that gets me to think “Awwww, I could never stay mad at you.” Dandelion definitely has its charm factor down and I think that might be enough to carry a show like this.
8. Gakkou Gurashi (Episode 2)
I was impressed by this episode of Gakkou Gurashi. The show followed up well on the twist at the end of its premiere with an episode more focused on the girls who know their plight. I thought this episode did a really good job of illustrating the tragedy of this situation through the feelings Kurumi experiences when confronted by the reality of her classmates being turned into zombies. In particular, the scene where she faces off with a zombie just outside the barricade of desks was extremely effective at showing little bits of leftover humanity that still cling to this inhuman monster. If Gakkou Gurashi can handle its absurd plot with this kind of subtlety and grace I think we might really have something here.
9. The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (Episode 14)
Imas is back and basically the same as I remember. This episode was mostly a way to ease us back into the world of 346pro complete with cameos from plenty of girls outside the main Cinderella Project idols. The central plot of dealing with the Producer’s stalker did a good enough job of reintroducing everybody and getting a few laughs out of me. It wasn’t much more than functional but that’s good enough for a reintroduction episode. What has me concerned is the way the episode ended. Imas has never been known for being graceful with its drama and a new, hard-nosed company president shutting everything down for… reasons is the kind of thing I’ve sort of come to expect from the franchise. I’m willing to give the show time to justify this move but on the surface it looks like another dramatic overreach from a franchise full of them.
10. HIMOUTO! Umaru-chan (Episode 2)
The second episode of HIMOUTO was actually much better than I expected. The show demonstrated that it does indeed have more than one joke and I thought the introduction of Ebina into Umaru and her brother’s lives did a lot for the show. I thought the way she started falling for Taihei was pretty funny and seeing Umaru struggle to hide her true nature from Ebina while simultaneously continuing to abuse her brother for her own benefit was entertaining. I guess at this point I shouldn’t be surprised when Doga Kobo gets the most out of yet another goofy comedy anime. This is exactly the kind of show that Doga Kobo excels at and I get the feeling I may actually end up watching this despite how pointless it seemed before it started.
11. Akagami no Shirayukihime (Episode 2)
Akagami is walking a very fine line for me at this point with how it handles its main character. I wasn’t a fan of the episode opening with the idea that Shirayuki was weak until Zen came along and lent her his strength. This got worse when she was captured be some creepy guy while gathering herbs and it looked like it would fall to Zen to save her. The show did manage to redeem itself somewhat when she engineered her own escape — or at least 90% of it. However, Zen coming along to finish things off at the end did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Other than questions of how the show handles Shirayuki’s agency it’s a perfectly serviceable fantasy adventure show and Hayami Saori is always a plus. Ultimately Akagami’s fate depends on what other shows this season do. Given some other shows took a step up this week things don’t look great for Akagami at this point.
12. Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu (Episode 16) [END]
So I guess we needed to get our endless eight references in at some point. This episode more than almost any other leaned heavily on the viewer’s assumed affection for this franchise and its history with all the “Kyon-kun denwa”s and summer homework sessions. The actual meat of the episode was more of the same, bland, mostly lifeless slice of life antics with one nice scene between Yuki and Kyon in the middle. Overall, Yuki-chan felt like a show that was trying to be two things at once. There was actually a really strong story here if the show managed to condense both its cast and its run time down to a more reasonable size. The disappearance arc with just Yuki, Kyon and Asakura was very good and some of the other, more personal scenes between two or three characters were solid as well. On the other hand, when the cast expanded out to the full crew from the original anime and started leaning heavily on references to past incarnations of this franchise it mostly fell flat. I hate to call the show a failure since I did really like the disappearance arc but I don’t think it managed to really achieve its own goals for 80% of its run. Instead it will have to settle for being an occasionally good but mostly flawed show.
Final Verdict: 4/10
13. Overlord (Episode 2)
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m completely shocked that the second episode of Overlord was much weaker than the first but it is somewhat disappointing. The laying out of in-game specifics gave the episode a much more specific feel compared to the more universal atmosphere of a dying game in the premiere. I can relate to a character saying goodbye to a world he has generic fond memories of but when he starts referencing specific characters and events within that game I start to lose that connection. That was a minor gripe though compared to the behavior of some of Momonga’s minions, particularly the female ones. Whenever you have an anime with a main character that has been rejected by society that gets to live in a game you’re entering some pretty dangerous territory and these shows have a tendency to devolve into pure wish-fulfillment plots that serve only to glorify the main character. That tone was definitely present for a lot of this episode, especially when the girls were fighting over who would get to be Momonga’s wife, but almost all the interactions between Momonga’s underlings boiled down to them gushing about how amazing Momonga is. That said, the episode wasn’t a total loss. The material that dealt with Momonga himself was still pretty compelling. I like watching him try to figure out what’s going on within this new world he’s become a part of and the contrast between the “boss” persona he takes on in front of his servants and his inner thoughts is pretty funny. The later parts of the episode also recaptured a lot of the nostalgic fondness felt in the previous episode, at least until Albedo showed up to ruin all that. I’ll stick with this another week to see where they actually go with it but I’m leaning towards drop with Overlord at this point.