People say the three-episode rule is the best for deciding on shows to keep and drop, but I’m somewhat of the opinion that five episodes is better for feeling out which shows are going to end up great and which are just going to end up fine.
Week 5 of the season was the week where some shows soared (a few of them for the first time) and other crashed hard. I’d kind of like to start off this post with the fun stuff, so let’s take a look at the thing that soared, starting with Rakugo Shinju—duh.
Last Friday evening, I was sitting at my computer, wondering if I really wanted to start the latest episode of Rakugo Shinju. I wasn’t particularly feeling in the mood for it, but I gave myself a strong mental push and hit the play button. And man, I was sure glad I did. Just as it always does, Rakugo Shinju swept me up and swept me away into its enchanting world of quiet pain, delicate intimacy, and grandiose performance. Week after week, even though I know better, Rakugo Shinju casts an unexpected spell on me. It’s amazing. This week, with the somewhat awkward, somewhat touching relationship between Kikuhiko and Miyokichi. While it’s clear that Kikuhiko’s investment in Miyokichi is tenuous at best, it’s still a relationship littered with intensity and closeness. And the very awkwardness that makes it uncomfortable to watch at times also makes it fascinating to see. The tragedy keeps creeping up on us—it’s coming. It’s coming. It’s coming.
Oh, and by the way, Rakugo Shinju continues to storm away from everything else on my watchlist for the position of my pick for “best” show of the season. The scary (and wonderful!) thing is that I don’t see it ever letting up. There are shows that are good, but still feel like they could fall apart. If Rakugo Shinju were to fall apart (I doubt it), it would be the most stunning thing I’ve seen in anime in a long time.
Among the other soaring shows this week was an unexpected (considering its recent track record) new entry—Haikyuu!!, which at long last managed to recapture the magic of its first season. I was so happy I even wrote an entire column for Crunchyroll on it! So if you want my full thoughts on this week’s Haikyuu!!, head on over that way.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash was the other surprise triumph of the week. This was the episode on grief that I wanted from Garo back when it killed off Lara in the middle of the second cour and never actually got. This was slow, agonizing, frustrating, and emotional. It was true. And to take the time to recognize that grief isn’t just something that affects people’s internal state, but also can damage their relationships with others because of the pain everyone is going through and the thoughtlessness that pain can cause to to act out of… that was entirely unexpected and entirely appreciated. I said at the end of last week’s Grimgar that it was going to have to nail this episode for me to consider Manato’s death a “success” for the show, and it rose to the challenge in a way I had never expected, leveraging all of its significant aesthetic and directorial muscle in the service of portraying the pain of its characters (Yume… ;-;) with sensitivity and honesty. Color me impressed and delighted.
Durarara!! had a strongish episode of its own, although the excellent visual direction of the last two episodes was absent. Fortunately, the direction wasn’t much missed thanks to the prominent action elements of the episode holding it together. The fact that we haven’t seen much from Mikado recently makes me a bit nervous, but it’s clear things are continuing to move and that the high school trio will still be prominent players. For now, that’s all I need.
Konosuba also had an up week, as my prediction that Darkness would work out better in smaller doses turned out to be spot on. With more of the focus returning to Aqua and Megumin (oh my gosh, the explosions on the castle gag was amazing), Konosuba seems to have found a more reliable balance. Where Konosuba goes in its fifth episode will probably set the tone for the rest of the show, though, so here’s hoping it continues on its merry, derpy way.
Also, Aqua’s still the best.
Elsewhere, Mahoutsukai Precure started up and got subbed, and I decided to make it the first Precure series I follow weekly. And what a good choice, because MahoPri was absolutely delightful from top to bottom. Heartcatch Precure is the only other show out of this massive franchise that I’ve seen, but that was enough for me to catch the familiar beats of the Precure formula and feel comfortable with them. The art design has the typical Precure feel and the character designs likewise, but it still also somehow feels fresh. Most importantly, though, is the presence of Yui Horie as Riko, one of the two leads. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve heard Hocchan in leading role and I am hugely anticipating having an entire Precure series to listen to her lovely voice. Also, they have big and tiny witch hats. What’s not to love?
- Akagami no Shirayuki-hime S2: A much different episode of Shirayuki than normal, but in Ando’s capable hands it flourishes. I didn’t need to worry. The most intriguing thing for me at this point is seeing how Shirayuki holds up in her dangerous position. I’d really like to see her maintain her strength of character even in these adverse conditions—it would cap her character building so well.
- ERASED: A huge flop of an episode, in which all the weaknesses I’d seen in the show previously but hadn’t had a reason to talk about, took over entirely. The weakness of Satoru’s character, the lack of an emotional core, and the critical hollowness of the show behind its thriller plot met up with the nasty stuff with the manager and Airi and some truly overdone direction (little Satoru’s meltdown was…too much) to really make the episode flop for me. I’m not happy about it, but I can’t say I’m all that surprised.
- Dimension W: What even was this episode? Honestly, at this point, I think my enjoyment of any given episode of Dimension W is directly proportional to how well it treats Mira. She really shown in episode 3, but episode 4 was weak on those terms, and episode 5 seemed destined to repeat those mistakes until the very end, when Mira got to punch the crystal. Of course, that was about it, but hey! I’ll take what I can get while the show labors in this weaker material.
- Phantom World: So dumb, barely any Guppy shots at all.
I’m kind of running out of steam by this point, but someone also specifically requested that I talk a little bit about why I’m still watching GATE—so I’ll start off with that. having been as vocal about my issues, frustrations, and outright anger at it as I’ve been. I think I’ve attempted to articulate my reasons before, but not fully succeeded. Let me try again here.
Although I realize it may seem like it, I’m really not hatewatching GATE. I tried hatewatching Heavy Object, and I’m sure you all remember how that turned out—I couldn’t take it. 5 episodes was all I could do. GATE‘s not the same as Heavy Object, though. It’s not a show I take apart or make fun of simply for the sake of doing so; rather, it’s a show I find genuinely fascinating as an emblem of a particular sort of hyper-masculine, sexually aggressive, thoughtful worldview. And it’s not even subtle about this; its metatext and subtext are always right there to see. It’s all so foreign and strange to me—like a sort of archaic, exotic dinosaur come back to life. Or something like that. I like Lelei, but if GATE wasn’t so fascinating academically (and I’ve started writing about all of this already), I think I would’ve dropped the show long ago.
Hopefully that all makes sense! See you all at next week’s rundown!