In which one girl does something unforgivable.
After endorsing this season last week I feel like I’m starting to come around to the people who are saying this isn’t a very good season. Classroom Crisis has been a revelation at the top but Charlotte had kind of an off week and if that show doesn’t manage to be a stand out we’re really down to a wild card in Classroom Crisis, an uneven Ore Monogatari and Non Non Biyori which, while solid, isn’t the kind of show that can carry a season. With nothing else stepping in to pick up the slack things could get ugly pretty fast. But that’s for the future, let’s focus on the now and get to the rankings:
1. Classroom Crisis (Episode 4)
Classroom Crisis rumbles on in its examination of the give and take of corporate culture this time bringing in the labor union. While individual moments in each episode can get pretty silly, I appreciate the fact that Classroom Crisis is keeping its central conflict and plot progression relatively realistic. The boardroom meetings, Sera’s dealings with the union, the political games that get mixed up with the corporate games and the overall balance of idealism vs pragmatism in this show all feel very genuine and true to life. There’s no magic switch Sera can flip to solve all his problems and his belief in his own goals and ideals won’t get him anywhere if he doesn’t learn how to operate within the rules of the corporate system he’s a part of. Now that Nagisa and Angelina have forced him into a corner we see that he’s actually very resourceful and capable of getting what he wants without running afoul of company regulations. I’m excited to see where the show goes from here as Sera continues to grow into his role as a leader and Nagisa’s overall plan comes more into focus. Classroom Crisis is a really good show in a season that needs all the help it can get.
2. Ore Monogatari (Episode 16)
Really good stuff from Ore Monogatari this week. You kind of knew after last week that we couldn’t take Saijou’s insistence that she just liked Takeo “as a person” – whatever that means – at face value. Sure enough, that wasn’t the whole story and of course Suna’s the one working behind the scenes to make things right. I like how Ore Monogatari manages to create conflict and sadness without having to break apart Takeo and Yamato. We saw based on Takeo’s inner thoughts that Yamato never had anything to worry about, but Saijou’s issues were never going to be solved that easily. Her situation was very relatable and the process of her accepting her feelings, saying her piece to Takeo and then struggling in that aftermath was handled very believably. Her wondering whether she’ll ever feel happy again and her desire to fall for somebody else to get over her feelings are very human reactions to a situation like this. Takeo, on the other hand, expressed a very beautiful thought when he met up with Yamato following Saijou’s confession. It’s not that he can’t get another girl and it’s not that Yamato happened to be first, Takeo stays with her because he truly loves her for who she is and it will take more than a confession to break that. Building that ability to trust your partner when you’re not by their side is one of the toughest tests for people in relationships and I like to see Ore Monogatari grappling with these things. It’s episodes like this that make Ore Monogatari stand out from other anime romances.
3. Non Non Biyori Repeat (Episode 3)
Non Non Biyori is the perfect anime for lazy summer afternoons. The sedate pacing and the deliberate way it goes about its work does a great job of enhancing the atmosphere of the show. This week I particularly liked the scene where Kazuho tried to motivate Ren-chon only for it to become clear that she doesn’t actually know what she’s doing much to Renge’s disappointment. This goofy back and forth is exactly the kind of thing Non Non Biyori excels at as it gets a lot of comedic mileage out of simple, everyday conversation. It remains more of a mood piece than an actual story, but as a mood piece Non Non Biyori is among the best out there.
4. Charlotte (Episode 4)
Well this was a very silly episode. There were a few meaningful moments in this episode like when Nao told Yuu that sometimes he needs to be able to do things himself, but overall it was mostly an episode of jokes and sight gags. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as some of the jokes were pretty funny. I have a soft spot for gags like the ones they built around Yusa’s “magical spells” or the way things get a little bit weird when Yusa suddenly becomes Misa. The end of the episode provided at least a bit of intrigue when Nao asked Yuu to take over the telekinesis user for reasons that are as of yet unclear. In the end, this episode was fun, but I’m hoping Charlotte moves on from this format before too long.
5. Gakkou Gurashi (Episode 3)
I really like the way Gakkou Gurashi is taking its time introducing each character and helping us understand who they are as a person and how this event has affected them. This week was Sakura-sensei (don’t call her Megu-nee)’s turn in the spotlight. We saw her as a young, newbie teacher who is trying to earn the respect of her students and her peers up until the point where everything went to hell. I thought the direction in this episode was superb. The way each scene built on the previous ones throughout the episode was very effective and in particular I thought the rooftop scene was incredibly well done. The use of light and shadow and the cuts to darkness and silence when Kurumi fought off the zombie were perfect for setting the tone of that scene. It’s instructive how Gakkou Gurashi managed to create a genuinely scary and unsettling scene without actually resorting to gore and on-camera violence. Not showing us what happened to the zombie and leaving us to fill in the blanks based on the characters’ reactions was a brilliant move and I wish more shows would follow that template. More than simply being an interesting combination of genres, Gakkou Gurashi is shaping up to be a compelling story of the tragedy faced by this group of friends in its own right.
6. Jokumachi no Dandelion (Episode 3)
While it isn’t quite up to the level of previous Yoshida Reiko led adaptations of Kirara properties (like K-ON) Dandelion after three episodes has a lot more charm than it did after one episode. I feel like this is a show that’s elevated by its script and storyboards because the base components of the story aren’t that compelling and the visuals a very lackluster but each little vignette ends up being quite enjoyable. This week’s focus was on Hikari, the second-youngest girl in the family. She’s stubborn and often doesn’t think her actions through but she has a good heart and was a lot of fun to watch this week. They did a good job of working her power smoothly into her (mis)adventures rescuing cats and becoming an idol. I guess every show needs an idol these days. The episode wasn’t all good as I could have done without the boob jokes much like I didn’t care for the panties jokes in episode one. Still, Dandelion seems to be coming along nicely into a relaxing light-hearted comedy about family and I’ll definitely sign up for that.
7. Working!!! (Episode 4)
Kind of a mixed bag this week on Working. I’ll give the show some credit for not back-tracking completely on the Satou/Yachiyo progress from last week. It’s painfully slow but at least they seem to still be moving forward somewhat, and generating some decent comedic moments in the process. The Takanashi/Inami plot also seems to be starting to grind forward although again it’s slow progress. The comedic side of the show is being kept afloat almost entirely by Yamada. The scenes without her can be a real slog but when she does grace us with her presence she manages to carry almost any scene she’s in. I still have a good deal of affection for this show but I think it’s good that it’s finally starting to wrap things up since I don’t think the show has much left in the tank at this point.
8. Akagami no Shirayuki-hime (Episode 3)
Just as I was saying that Shirayuki’s reliance on Zen was a problem for her character, the show acknowledges it the very next episode. There were some very nice moments this week of Shirayuki standing up for herself and demonstrating that she’s somebody that can take care of herself and won’t back down just because somebody tells her to. I’m still not in love with the fact that her primary motivation for all this seems to be Zen but we’re in a better place than we were a week ago. The bigger problem for this show overall is that the base narrative just isn’t all that compelling to me. Maybe things will get better down the road but this one might just be a genre-drop even if they manage to handle Shirayuki effectively. I’ll call it a tentative keep for now though.
9. ShimoSeka (Episode 4)
That was certainly bold. I have to give ShimoSeka that. The “fall” of Anna was certainly sudden but I’m not sure how much it does for the show beyond shock value. I feel like this show is starting to run short on jokes and has to resort to gags like this. The show is still pretty entertaining and it wasn’t particularly “smart” to begin with so I’m not sure how far it’s really fallen though. If they manage to actually go somewhere with this then I think there’s still a lot to recommend ShimoSeka but if this is the start of a decent into crudeness without any real purpose then it could end up as a drop for me.
10. The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls (Episode 15)
I suppose it’s kind of expected at this point for Idolmaster shows to place artificial road blocks in front of their heroines but this one felt particularly blatant. The show needed to manufacture some new conflict so they brought in a new executive who wants to shut down all the idol groups because _____________. There’s no real reason for this to happen other than the generate conflict for the show. Cinderella Girls is further hurt by the fact that we already have a show this season in Classroom Crisis that is actually doing a good job of building a plot around executive meddling. That said, the second half of this episode was actually pretty good. Kaede was positively radiant and provided further proof that the wrong idols got all the screen time in the first cour. The portions with Uzuki, Rin and Mio brainstorming ways to help P-san were also good and served as a reminder of how much better the show is when it shoves most of the cast out of the way and lets this main trio go to work. Overall, this episode was a perfect encapsulation of both the good and the bad of Idolmaster. I suspect the rest of this cour will be an up and down ride as well.
11. HIMOUTO! Umaru-chan (Episode 3)
Thank you Doga Kobo for getting the most out of every goofy comedy anime you make. Himouto is a show that has no business being as much fun as it is but after three weeks I still find myself thoroughly enjoying it. Seeing Umaru desperately try to hide her identity from her classmate by pretending to be “Komaru”, Umaru’s younger sister. The whole show in nonsense and Umaru’s antics are constantly over the top but Doga Kobo makes it work. This is the last time I’ll doubt a Doga Kobo comedy. (Although knowing my luck I’ll hype the next one they make and it will suck.)