This week has been a hectic one for me outside of my hobby as an anime enthusiast which is why this one’s a little later than usual, sorry about that. Fret not though, every episode of the shows you expect are here this week and there is a hell of a lot to say! This appears to be the week of change, some going as drastic as to removing entire members of their main cast and others taking on a different structure altogether. Although it really hasn’t been the strongest week this season, there has been an incredibly high number of notable sequences and a couple scenes I could script an entire Piece-by-Piece episode on. Drama has been the theme and it’s been an emotionally exhaustive week for anime. Combining that with my mentally taxing preparation for University (which is starting very soon by the way), the word length on this one is going to be one for the record books.
A-KUN HAS LITERALLY NO SCREENTIME AS THE DOG TAKES CONTROL OF THE EPISODE
COMEDY, ROMANCE | ANIMATED BY DIOMEDEA | DIR: KUSAKAWA, KEIZOU
Quite remarkably, this episode has quite literally a few seconds with Akutsu present and that’s it. The first section of the episode is dedicated to the punk girls introduced last week as we find out one of them has been dating for three months. It’s essentially boiled down to some unexpected character traits and a punk girls acting cutesy. The next section focuses on the blonde girl and the student council pres. Confronting the clear stalking obsession, their interactions consist of blonde girl being blunt and pres being an idiot. You know, when I first saw this show I figured Yoshiko would be the only stupid character considering the show is named after her. Alas, every character has some level of idiocy and the pres is no different, acting over-the-top and being completely clueless to her criminal levels of perversion. Following that sequence, we’re met with the kids Yoshiko met in the park a couple episodes ago trying to decide what candy to buy for their school trip. The whole thing had Dagashi Kashi vibes entwined with a Non non Biyori setting, although not quite like the rest of the show I thoroughly enjoyed it. Topping the episode off, the blonde girl reveals she has a dog of her own and a play date is set up. It’s your generic Lady & The Tramp style as the cutesy Pomeranian steals the heart of the giant “Dog”. All in all, an enjoyable episode with incredibly varied sections.
Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
SCHOOL IDOL CULTURE PAINTED AS THE PLAGUE, WEIRD IT’S IN A GAMBLING ANIME
MYSTERY, PSYCHOLOGICAL | ANIMATED BY MAPPA | DIR: HAYASHI, YUUCHIROU
Kakegurui has been constantly criticised and heavily broken down by audiences due to its apparent use of Thriller motifs and straying from its initial narrative crux of gambling. For a show under such high fire, it’s really not helping itself is it… Episode Eight of Kakegurui contained absolutely zero gambling, no games and no cheats. The entirety of those twenty minutes were dedicated to providing a somewhat coherent shift in the storyline, taking away and bringing in new characters and having a bit of a rant. That may have been an understatement. Most of this episode felt like a social commentary on the state of Japan’s idol culture and the two-faced nature of young women living through a facade. As always, the show brings forth a new challenger for our main character Yumeko to gamble with – each with their own personality and gambling tricks to coincide. Usually, this is handled by splitting the episode in two, one for exposition and the other for the game itself. A really basic example of a setup and a payoff, but it worked for the first few episodes. Eventually, a pattern seemed to form and this episode felt like a natural break-away in an attempt to keep things fresh. However, when that shift results in taking out the main appeal of your show – the biggest source of viewers tuning in – it’s no wonder that a dip will form. That being said, the episode a couple weeks ago of Midari making me feel physically sick wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as this. Although the grotesque facial expression close ups were there (which got old a couple weeks ago), that doesn’t make up for an entire episode without its soul. An honestly embarrassing episode to me, clearly a macro set up for next episode but it left me feeling disheartened at the end of the day.
Knights & Magic
ERNESTI DECIDES TO CONTROL HALF OF THE ARMY TO TAKE ON SOME PURPLE BUGS
ACTION, FANTASY | ANIMATED BY 8BIT | DIR: YAMAMOTO, YUSUKE
Underwhelming, week in week out. It’s a shame how tiresome this show is getting because of how much care is clearly being put into it. Knights & Magic continues to “make use” of its narration and focus entirely on its grand-scale battles. Credit where it’s due, the all-out war between the so called Shellcased demon beasts and the Ernesti-led Order of the Silver Phoenix was surprisingly expansive. Although the majority of these members have become broken records – the writers in fear of developing any of these side characters – once they’re faceless in their mechs they put on quite a show. Even their Silhouette Knights are becoming more generic by the episode, each blending into their respective commands. This episode’s breakneck pace meant that it was able to accomplish quite a lot in its runtime which is a feat in itself – even if it still resulted in a lacklustre episode. In its first half we’re back to the roots, an honest battle showing off the capabilities of CGI animation and flaunting all of the new mechs that Ernesti has developed since the last battle. Although this was less creatively influenced and pretty by the books, it’s what initially brought me into this show and it delivered on what it set out so I can’t fault it for that. The second, however, felt like a group of writers without the knowledge of pacing a 12 episode series. By royal command, Ernesti is taken to a mystical land of inhuman creatures to finally complete his dream that we’ve been building up since the first episode. Finally, after life-or-death battles and countless days working away at what is told to be an impossible task, he’s able to learn the secrets to building his own Silhouette Knight. Then he’s done. In about five minutes, he accomplishes his dream. No real payoff or exciting visual direction to convey such a feat, it just kind of happens and the narrator glosses over it all. We didn’t even get time to take in this new mystical land, the whole thing felt incredibly rushed and now we’re back to the same setting we’re always in. Sloppily handled and probably my least favourite moment of Summer 2017 so far, really doesn’t bode well for the show as a whole.
Koi to Uso (Love and Lies)
ROMANTIC DRAMAS, THEY BUILD YOU AND BREAK YOU DOWN JUST AS FAST
DRAMA, ROMANCE | ANIMATED BY LIDENFILMS | DIR: TAKUNO, SEIKI
Among the numerous upsets and generally gloomy episodes this week, Koi to Uso did its best to bring some light into the mix. From its optimistic and whimsical soundtrack persevering through some admittedly crushing scenes, something about this episode made it so easy to smile. Or so I thought, going into the second half of this episode made this an incredibly heart wrenching watch. Our first section balanced out the lack of Nisaka we’ve had to deal with for the past few episodes by delving into his standpoint on the student play. For a male character who is presumed to be gay for our main character to perform the lead female role in a gender-swapped Romeo and Juilet definitely brings about its own complications. Although the pacing was somewhat akin to a broken down tractor, the latter half of the episode seemed to wire in a new engine. Having now somewhat resolved the minute arguments that Nisaka and Neji have been having, the show continues to bring our focus to Takasaki – who was before my least favourite character in this utterly small cast. Now, I don’t know what to think (and I think that’s the point). With the final few minutes of the episode unafraid to burrow deep into the minds of our “unrequited lovers”, I must commend the fantastic work of both voice actors as their delivery really kept the whole scene together. Combined with the already praised soundtrack, the final few minutes really did break me down as fast as it brought me to a high. Guess there’s no rest for the wicked, really enjoyable episode and looking forward to the next one.
Made in Abyss
INSPIRING, ENGAGING AND TEAR-JERKING: THIS EPISODE TRULY HAS IT ALL
SCI-FI, ADVENTURE | ANIMATED BY KINEMA CITRUS | DIR: KOJIMA, MASAYUKI
First of all, this is not the strongest episode of Made in Abyss by any means. Previous episodes have demonstrated a much higher mastery of visual direction and beautiful animation. Where this week drew strength was through its satisfaction in rewarding the viewer for thoroughly following these last few episodes. In this mini arc with Ozen, we’ve seen the hardships of survival, the blossoming of friendships and an immense amount of growth in our two protagonists of Reg and Riko. All the while, we’ve been treated to some exceptional backstory elements of Riko’s missing mother, Lyza. I will happily admit that this episode brought a tear to my eye, not multiple but a single tear as I know now that the narrative is progressing that we’re leaving that behind. Although the initial departure from the surface was somewhat emotional, Made in Abyss has taken the time to let us connect with these side characters of Ozen and Maruruk. Now, us as an audience are in the shoes of our main characters, leaving behind characters we’ve come to enjoy being around in search of their quest. Not just that, but the episode also spent a hefty amount of time doing what it does best – building the world and allowing time for some raw survival sequences. The recurring campfire scene made me smile without realising it, that feeling of warmth knowing that our characters are progressing and proving all of the naysayers that they can survive. Really fantastic demonstration of beautiful writing on the character front and watching the separation between these two groups was handled with just the right amount of subtlety. Really upset to see these characters go but that’s just barely overshadowed by the excitement of what’s to come!
THE NEW HIRES ARE FINALLY HERE AND AOBA DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO REACT
SLICE OF LIFE, COMEDY | ANIMATED BY DOGA KOBO | DIR: YOSHIYUKI, FUJIWARA
Man, I really love New Game!!. Seriously, this is becoming one of my favourite franchises of all time at this point. Even though some elements of this show felt comparatively weak when you look at the whole of the season so far, this episode still felt like a 9/10. Somewhat forming a pattern, this episode was split up into multiple sections focusing on its own respective character. The first (like last week) revolved around Nenecchi who finally got a job at Eagle Jump once again. Even though we all knew it was going to happen and none of it felt like a surprise, the scene was incredibly well done and continues to solidify Nenecchi as one of my favourite characters. That being said, there aren’t any characters in New Game!! that I don’t like. Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
The second section focused on the new director of the team, Christina – shown infrequently before and responsible for the drama of last episode. She seems harmless enough and her character is actually pretty entertaining to watch, it’s nice to see a responsible leader who still struggles with her own presentation as that figure. She also adds a new dynamic to the hierarchy of the setting which I hope will be utilised extensively. Maybe I like her so much because she reminds me of an older Hifumi (who we barely see this episode) but who knows.
Finally, the last section of the episode introduces the new hires who we’ve been seeing in the opening for seven weeks now. Needless to say, I was very excited to see new characters thrown into the mix. Fresh blood and new points of view hold endless opportunity for a creative team like Eagle Jump. However, I really don’t like Momiji – the red haired character on the right. As my friends have told me, I’m really harsh on new characters and I’ll probably end up loving her just as much as the others but it’ll take time to make up for what I consider to be a less than stellar introduction. Her friend is great though, fantastic episode as always and leaves a lot to be explored for the rest of the season.
Welcome to the Ballroom
AS A DRAMA, GREAT. AS A SHOW FOCUSED ON BALLROOM DANCING, NOT SO MUCH
COMEDY, SPORTS | ANIMATED BY PRODUCTION I.G | DIR: ITAZU, YOSHIMI
Where to start with this one, the episode itself is called Reality and it’s probably the most fitting title of the season. Still rushing from the high we got from last episode’s sudden burst of energy and kinetic focus, I came into this episode with high hopes. Although it was clear this one would either deliver thoroughly or fall flat in every regard – there is no potential for a middle ground now. Judging on a micro level, analysing the episode as its own 20 minute piece, it wasn’t fantastic. As someone who has been this show’s #1 fan since day one, it’s pretty disappointing for the show to dive-bomb so swiftly after one of its best episodes. That may be a tad harsh but the point stands, this episode felt like a cheap romantic drama more akin to Koi to Uso than its own tale of Ballroom Dancing. Week in and week out I’ve praised this show’s ability to balance its action oriented dance sequences (even if they’re composed of detailed slideshows) and the drama between dancers. Looking at the work behind the scenes, it clearly isn’t a result of inexperienced staff, perhaps we should look to the art style? Although preserving the integrity of the manga’s visual look, it’s clear that more flexible and basic character designs would lend themselves much easier to the fluid nature of Ballroom dancing. Whether it be some reasons behind the scenes we don’t know about or simply the way it’s being written, this episode felt lacklustre. With the dances feeling dull and the drama as basic as it’s ever been, not the greatest sign for an otherwise fantastic show.