This week has taught me how difficult it is to manage seven series when half of the week consisted of being drunk in a club or hungover in my dorm. Nonetheless, I’ve done my absolute best to keep this Weekly Roundup on time and of the quality you’ve come to expect. Although it’s been a haze for the majority of this week, each show has continued to impact me in their own ways. Neither a genuine or backhanded compliment, memorable will always be the word to describe this season and week eleven doesn’t lose that title. We may be reaching the conclusion stage of Summer 2017 as a season, but apparently not everyone got the memo as some episodes continued to delve deep into the heart of their series. With surprisingly detailed fight sequences in shows I’d never predict and narratives attempting to ease off, this week has been a difficult one to digest.
THE HARDEST WORKER IN THE WORLD, A BATTLE OF BANANAS AND A TRULY GOOD BOY
COMEDY, ROMANCE | ANIMATED BY DIOMEDEA | DIR: KUSAKAWA, KEIZOU
If Non non Biyori took an insane comedy route in the episode where Renge learns to ride a bike, I feel it’d be pretty similar to the opening of this week’s AHO-Girl. Following Ruri-chan (A-kun’s failure of a little sister) who’s continued to score a fat zero on a school test, the scene sets out to find something she’s naturally gifted in. We’re treated to an active montage sequence with Yoshiko shouting various hobbies with a visual indicator that not all has gone too well. Pretty standard but entertaining enough to start off the episode. Secondly, the next sequence is the focus as Yoshiko sets out to avenge a Banana Frappuccino – tossed aside by the local thugs at Stan. K High. Subtle as always. Surprisingly though, the sequence actually delivers in presenting a well animated and well choreographed fight scene between Yoshiko and numerous generic school thugs. From the drastic shift in mise-en-scen and tone, this scene clearly signified a “final battle” for the series as Yoshiko proves her strength. Topping it all off, the last scene takes place in the town with Dog rescuing various civilians. It’s all very standard at this point in the series but continued to prove that this show is not out of ideas. Solid episode.
Kakegurui – Compulsive Gambler
DRAGGED DOWN INTO THE ABYSS WHERE MONEY IS WORTHLESS AND LIFE IS DEAD
MYSTERY, PSYCHOLOGICAL | ANIMATED BY MAPPA | DIR: HAYASHI, YUUCHIROU
Well things are certainly getting interesting now aren’t they? Functioning as the second episode in a two-parter following the duel between the logical mind of Manyuda and the insane mentality of Yumeko, this week had a lot to live up to. Although it provided a more impactful opening than that of the dreadful Yumemi School Idol focus, this one still had to provide a hefty amount of gambling. I refuse to give this show a free pass using the excuse that it’s attempting to present something other than its initial appearance. Kakegurui is a psychological exploration of an utterly insane gambling addict locked in a world of her dreams. So why is it, that so much time is wasted on making excuses for other side characters? Once this season is done with, will anybody honestly care about the Nail Girl who lends Yumeko money? In terms of visually presenting exposition in an engaging manner, I have no complaints. This episode at least delivered in terms of keeping the viewer enthralled in the visual exploration of these dark themes. Although most of the episode consisted of a shocked close up and an average voice actor spewing out the most generic dialogue of the season, the flashback sequences at least presented something different to the last three weeks of drivel. It sounds harsh but it’s true. Even those defending this show will proudly announce that Kakegurui is actually a Thriller above all else, despite being one of the weakest thrill rides I’ve experienced in a while. From its groan-inducingly blatant imagery and it’s impossibly unpredictable narrative, this show is nothing more than eye candy and that’s all it’s ever been.
Knights & Magic
CONTINUING TO DISPLAY THAT THIS SHOW HAS NO IDEA HOW TO BALANCE AT ALL
ACTION, FANTASY | ANIMATED BY 8BIT | DIR: YAMAMOTO, YUSUKE
Knights & Magic has become a self fulfilling prophecy at this point. I almost feel like directing readers back to Week Nine’s Roundup because it’s the exact same process executed poorly for the second time. One difference however, is that this episode had a somewhat strong start – opening on a fight sequence between two nations that have actually been established. We’re back to the war between our main characters and the overall “bad guys” we’ve seen in the shadows since episode one. Now thinking about this episode on a macro level, we’re approaching the latter end of the season so an all-out war like this should hold quite a lot in terms of the narrative right? Well like always, the battle felt weightless and poorly choreographed. Without exaggeration, I enjoyed the 1-2 minute fight sequence shown in this week’s episode of AHO-Girl more than the elaborate yet bland 5 minute war presented here. Even our main character of Ernestie complains about it, saying that “A duel between Silhouette Knights is rare”. Knights & Magic, you have your lead protagonist who is supposed to mirror the feelings of the audience poking fun at your own show! Then following the lacklustre set-piece after set-piece style of war is a concoction of tedious narration halfheartedly keeping the various interactions between side characters connected. This is going to sound mad, but this show reminds me of the weak episodes you would find in later seasons of The Walking Dead. A lot of exposition, tedious dialogue and a quick surge of action to keep the viewers engaged. The main difference being weight, the number of episodes this series has in comparison can’t even touch the level of fleshing out that characters receive in one of TV’s most popular shows of the decade. Knights & Magic is continuing to be utterly harmless since its atrocious performance in Episode 9 which is about as positive as I can give at this point.
Koi to Uso (Love and Lies)
INVITED TO A WEDDING, THEN A HOT SPRING. THEY’RE LIVING THE HIGH LIFE HERE
DRAMA, ROMANCE | ANIMATED BY LIDENFILMS | DIR: TAKUNO, SEIKI
Being dramatic is this show’s forte and this episode delivered a hundred times over. Opening at the wedding ceremony that was introduced in a previous week, Nisaka seems to be pushed to the wayside even more so than before. From the Opening and the first few episodes of setup back in July, Koi to Uso eluded to a four-way complication of romance. For me, that seemed like much more of an intriguing premise compared to the overdone love triangle that is so much easier to pull off. While Nisaka has undoubtedly had his time in the spotlight, it’s pretty clear that Yukari doesn’t even realise he swings that way and it’s episode eleven already. His character felt like such a wasted opportunity and has been essentially used as a catalyst for whatever drama between Yukari – Ririna – Takasaki was the hot topic. Gay rant aside, this episode packed a punch by bringing out a true heinous lie and revealing it to the audience (and a single character). Finally, in a show literally titled after Love and Lies, we have a dichotomy between the knowledge of the audience and that of the characters within the show. Using the dramatic irony in a show that physically performed a Shakespeare play two weeks ago seems pretty sketchy but it did the job in making the viewer feel the exact sense of crushing humiliation that embodied that character at the time. It’s such a shame it took this long to get into the nitty-gritty of this narrative as (to my knowledge), the series is going to be done with in a couple of weeks.
Made in Abyss
SLOWING DOWN FOR THE BETTER TO EXPLORE REG’S ROLE AS A GUARDIAN
SCI-FI, ADVENTURE | ANIMATED BY KINEMA CITRUS | DIR: KOJIMA, MASAYUKI
With Riko at death’s door and a mysteriously fuzzy guide to lead the way, this episode revolves entirely around Reg. Even more than we’ve come to expect, this episode was loaded with beautiful backgrounds, interesting and unique monsters and a wealth of backstories and elaborate world building. Although it still doesn’t top the incredible 10/10 episodes we’ve seen in previous weeks (last week’s being a stand out example), that’s not to say this was without memory. Looking back on it, I’m quite impressed at how the staff managed to essentially introduce a brand new enigmatic character without compromising the core features of this show. Even though time was taken to set up Nanachi as a mentor style of character, they’re sure to include some adventuring tasks fighting against creatures we haven’t seen before. Similar to the rigorous exercises we saw with Ozen, now the training wheels are off and one mistake is a literal life or death moment. Utterly helpless to the fate of Riko’s current situation, Reg has to put his utmost faith into this new character of Nanachi and undertake the tasks given to him before Riko passes out for good. Not only is Reg separated from Riko (splitting the duo we’ve seen since episode one), but he does a damn good job of it which makes for some satisfying entertainment. In spite of the dark and brooding inner monologues and pushing aside the thoughts of a scared boy in an unexplored world, Reg’s ability to take control when he needs to is incredibly enthralling to watch. Although it felt structured in a way that felt very safe, this episode provided everything it needed to and more – fantastic.
A PEACEFUL RETURN TO THE GAME-DEV / SLICE OF LIFE SETTING AND SITUATION
SLICE OF LIFE, COMEDY | ANIMATED BY DOGA KOBO | DIR: YOSHIYUKI, FUJIWARA
That heading may sound a bit off considering we never physically left the setting we’ve become accustomed to across what is rapidly becoming two seasons of runtime. Approaching New Game as a larger piece as opposed to a collection of twenty minute episodes makes it really interesting to highlight key shifts in tone and structure. Most widely discussed is the narrative shift between seasons – providing more time fleshing out characters and exploring internal monologues. While I agree wholeheartedly, my personal viewpoint is that of Momo and Narumi (the two new hires) joining the team of EagleJump. Many people will back me up in saying that I did not like these two characters when they were first introduced – and that I believe that was the intended reaction. As a general audience, we became amazed at the sheer volume of character building and that all seemed to slow down around halfway through the season. The culprit? New Game!! had to take time to establish these brand new characters and integrate them into a team of characters that are more connected than any I’ve seen in a Slice of Life anime before. Even now, they stand as my least favourite characters. Despite that, trying to compete with some of the most relatable and loveable characters is an incredibly tough task and represents their role in this game development process as a whole. In fear of rambling and going on like a Film Student, this episode was great as always and provided a comfortable balance of lighthearted sequences and comedic social interactions. More akin to season one, but in a positive light.
Welcome to the Ballroom
THE PERFECT CONCLUSION TO A FIGHT WELL FOUGHT ON BOTH SIDES
COMEDY, SPORTS | ANIMATED BY PRODUCTION I.G | DIR: ITAZU, YOSHIMI
I told myself that I wouldn’t make this a multiple paragraph section again so I’ll keep it as concise as possible. Now making it the third occurrence, this episode of Welcome to the Ballroom felt near flawless to the point of pure bewilderment. First and foremost, there is an animation sequence in this episode that actually took my breath away and left me with goosebumps for the remainder of the run time. Not only is the original manga art-style replicated to perfection, but there is such beautifully fluid movement that any naysayers harping on about this show’s static nature can leave right away. The rest of the episode around it was incredible, demonstrating a masterful execution of setup and payoff without making the world feel inherently broken or unrealistic. Unlike so many sports anime, the judges don’t go out of their way to favour the key characters and the background characters are seen as much more than colours to fill the ballroom. Everything in this episode felt alive and brimming with energy, the entire reason this article is being published late is because I had to rewatch key sequences multiple times! Although not as awe-inspiring as Episode 5 which I had to dedicate an entire article to, this felt like the most applicable way to conclude this series in terms of this “tournament arc”. Absolutely beautiful to watch, brought tears to my eyes and filled my mind with positive thoughts.