We are officially past the halfway mark and most of these shows are still going strong! As always, no edition of the Weekly Roundup shows an entirely perfect week but some of the episodes that aired definitely deserved a near flawless score. Although these little introductory paragraphs are proving more difficult to write with each edition, I’m excited to share what I thought of this week. With AHO-Girl focusing on side characters, Knights & Magic finally getting to the point we’ve been waiting for and Made in Abyss getting much darker than expected, it’s been an eventful week.
THE SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON THE SIDE CHARACTERS FOR THIS EPISODE
COMEDY, ROMANCE | ANIMATED BY DIOMEDEA | DIR: KUSAKAWA, KEIZOU
Now that Summer Vacation is over and the obligatory beach episode is done and dusted, we’re back into the classroom for some more of Yoshiko’s antics. Instead of keeping the focus on our main cast of “friends”, this episode takes on sections of the school we haven’t explored in much detail before (if any at all). First and foremost, we’re reintroduced to the school’s councillor(?) who is once again concerned for Yoshiko’s academic performance. As always, the focus of the conversation is lost rapidly before spiralling into an adventure of love – complete with a cross dressing Yoshiko. For a comedy show, this section wasn’t that funny but it struck an enjoyable balance where the councillor character can finally receive what she’s never experienced. In the second section, the dog found a couple episodes ago (now literally just called Dog) has trouble choosing between Akutsu and Yoshiko. Again, not much on the comedic front but enjoyable nonetheless. Finally – given that the fourth section is about a minute long – the last section introduces three punk characters who get away with being stupid with their attitude of not caring. They play hide-and-seek which ends up lasting for three days. All in all, this episode did fall flat more than usual but it was actually more satisfying to see the characters actually do well instead of just being used for comedic effect.
Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
BEATING A DEAD HORSE RETRACTS SO MUCH OF WHAT MAKES THIS SHOW ENGAGING
MYSTERY, PSYCHOLOGICAL | ANIMATED BY MAPPA | DIR: HAYASHI, YUUCHIROU
So much of Kakegurui revolves around its eccentric characters that live within the academy. It’s the sheer volume of interesting characters and how they interact with one another during these gambles that personally has me coming back each week. Although gambling anime is one I’m inexperienced in, it’s clear (even to someone like me) that the games within this show really aren’t the strong point. Whenever I feel inexperienced to discuss certain shows, I do my research and try to compare it to something I’ve either seen prior or holds a strong link. So far, Kakegurui doesn’t seem to have a strong link to any other show I’ve found so far (not including shows simply being in the same genre). This episode really epitomised that idea with this week’s 20 minutes being an absolute mess. Although not the most pleasant to watch, Midari’s insane personality is one that keeps viewers following the show – but it’s really is beating a dead horse at this point. When a show that is carried by its characters has someone as easy to impress as me physically groaning at the dialogue coming out of their mouth, it’s a very bad sign. Midari is a chore to watch at this point and we’ve been force fed the same motions and tropes for half of the season now. Really weak episode with no payoff whatsoever, I don’t hold high hopes for Kakegurui at this point – hopefully I’ll be proven wrong.
Knights & Magic
MULTIPLE EPISODES BUILT UP TO THIS MOMENT AND… ANOTHER LUKEWARM PAYOFF
ACTION, FANTASY | ANIMATED BY 8BIT | DIR: YAMAMOTO, YUSUKE
Compared to every other episode that aired this week, Knight’s & Magic was without a doubt the most important one for various reasons. The main being that the last three episodes have been used to build up to this exact moment – going so far as having such a weak episode last week. So, what’s the verdict? Well, it was about as I expected which isn’t exactly a positive thing considering my outlook on the show. Among the 24 minute run time (including opening and ending), less than half of that was actually dedicated to the payoff of three lacklustre episodes. As always, the strength of Knights & Magic is its motion, the visual amazement of having numerous gigantic mechs battling it out in fluid CGI. From this season, this show is the one to display the most “GIF worthy sequences” that I expect to use in its full season review upon completion. So when an episode that needs to be more than good has less than half of its run time dedicated to exactly being that, it doesn’t construct a strong episode. Sure, it was entertaining for those few minutes to see the new Centaur Mech and the new Jet Glider Mech duke it out against weaker models, the whole thing just kind of ended. Whether the writers know it or not, having such low mana banks really limits the show’s ability to present awe-inspiring battle sequences and this episode fell prey to that. Another lukewarm response with a show that needs to do better, hopefully next week will bring something new to the table.
Koi to Uso (Love and Lies)
THE ASSIGNED COUPLE HAVE THEIR FIRST ARGUMENT – THE VIEWER BEARS THE BRUNT
DRAMA, ROMANCE | ANIMATED BY LIDENFILMS | DIR: TAKUNO, SEIKI
Apparently a running theme of this week, disappointment plagued this episode of Koi to Uso. Following the strongest cliffhanger this show has seen, it kind of just turns around and walks casually back down the other way. This episode follows a falling out between the assigned couple Yukari and Ririna and how they tackle their first real argument. However, instead of taking a traditional route and taking this opportunity to develop these two as a couple, the focus is on Takasaki. I’ve always been aware that this show is the weakest one I’m watching this season, but my personal enjoyment for this genre has been keeping it alive. This episode, has come the closest to breaking that enjoyment. Clearly the writers are using this as punishment for what Yukari did but it’s pretty aggravating as a viewer to deal with that as well. Where other shows have the talent to pull off this kind of effect, this doesn’t feel like you’re in his shoes. Instead you feel like a bystander to a petty school relationship where every character is so wrapped up in themselves to make the right decisions. Again, this kind of effect can work if the characters feel relatable and the decisions feel justified but everything feel weightless in this show right now. Nothing feels like it has any impact which I sincerely hope won’t be a recurring aspect of an otherwise harmless drama show.
Made in Abyss
ACTION PACKED, PSYCHOLOGICALLY TAXING AND THE DARKEST THEMES SO FAR
SCI-FI, ADVENTURE | ANIMATED BY KINEMA CITRUS | DIR: KOJIMA, MASAYUKI
Making up for the slower episode last week, Made in Abyss delivered thoroughly with an action packed episode while still retaining the engaging narrative that builds intensely with each week. In terms of the show’s famous world building that’s taken the anime community by storm, this episode retracted and focused more on a heavy fight sequence – splicing dialogue in between. Personally, this is exactly how fight sequences keep me engaged with the consistently impressive animation creating a truly impactful battle. Not only that, but developing the narrative in such a way that leaves more questions than answers really blew me away. Although visually focusing on Reg’s fight with Ozen and the technical prowess that comes with a White Whistle fighting a robot of the depths, all of the dialogue actually focuses on Riko. Logically speaking, this is the best way to keep both of our main characters active considering Riko’s complete lack of fighting abilities. As I said before, the world building took a step back as the majority of this episode takes place in a single room (although there were some great backgrounds in the latter half). Fleshing out Ozen’s previously one-dimensional character with some backstory and the episode’s overall dark tone – both visually and audibly – this stands as another fantastic demonstration of the talent working behind the scenes.
EVERY WEEK I WONDER HOW THIS SHOW CAN OUTDO ITSELF, EVERY TIME THEY DELIVER
SLICE OF LIFE, COMEDY | ANIMATED BY DOGA KOBO | DIR: YOSHIYUKI, FUJIWARA
This is the fourth episode this season of New Game! to blow me away, I’ve watched it three times already as of writing this piece. There is so much to this episode to delve into that can’t be covered in a single format like these weekly roundups so I’ll do my best with what I’ve got. Split into two sections of roughly equal times, the episode began with some wholesome Cute Girls doing Cute Things. Having completed her little game she’s been working on since leaving Eagle Jump last season, Nenecchi reveals the finished product to her friends Aoba and Hotarun. This section was pretty standard of the show, displaying some visually engaging cuts between the game and the players but not providing much more than progression for Nenecchi as a character.
The second section is where I want to focus on. Now back in the workplace, Aoba learns that her job as Main Character Designer also entails an illustration angle – providing the key visuals for the game. However, in a sickening (yet understandable) business manoeuvre, higher ups decide that the well established name of Yagami Ko should be the one to undertake this job. While this would promote sales, Yagami is outraged at the decision to push Aoba aside due to her lack of experience – having herself been in that position eight years ago. What follows is a demonstration of mental turmoil as Aoba’s first illustration job is swept from under her. Challenging their decision and providing more of Aoba’s development as a character designer, she establishes a competition between her and Yagami. While the decision has been set in stone, she fights for her dignity and to prove her skills. Quite interestingly, half of this section is in montage form to the Opening Theme that didn’t play at the start of this episode. Featuring an imagination sequence of Aoba taking on the role of the game’s protagonist. As a whole, this episode is perfectly balanced and well rounded – providing a substantial amount of character development in amongst the various cutesy scenarios audiences have come to expect of this show.
Welcome to the Ballroom
THE BATTLE COMMENCES AND THE SHOW BECOMES MUCH MORE FLUID AND ANIMATED
COMEDY, SPORTS | ANIMATED BY PRODUCTION I.G | DIR: ITAZU, YOSHIMI
Finally! The fluidity and kinetic emphasis viewers have been craving for seven weeks now! Last week a battle between newcomer Tatara and veteran Gaiju was established – fighting for the dignity of a dishevelled Mako. To my genuine delight, the entire episode (and the next one according to the preview) is dedicated solely to this duel. Not only did this episode deliver a hearty helping of adorable Mako sequences, but it did so in a way to progress her character’s strength. From the first scene, she’s hiding in her costume-changing tent and by the last few minutes she’s finally standing up to asshole of a brother in the only way she knows how. In between this drastic jump held a plethora of visually engaging dance sequences that became so much more than the tiresome style we’ve been spoon fed for the past six weeks. Instead of opting for a series of close ups to convey movement (emphasising the facial expressions in the process), this episode was incredibly animated. Some of these dance sequences were visually directed to look more like a fight scene, utilising sweeping wide shots and a tracking shot at every moment. Everything in this episode’s key sequences were fluid and never stood still. To balance this effect, they’re segmented by dialogue heavy dividers as our main characters prepare for their next routine. Really stellar writing as well, none of the conversations felt like they were filling time, it all cemented the overall outline of the episode. Not to mention one brutal cliffhanger even by this show’s standards! An excellent demonstration of how a Sports anime should work, thoroughly impressed but not surprised by any means.