Week 4 impressions

I didn’t intend to end up full write-ups for all the anime that I was covering. As it turns out, putting out write-ups for eight shows takes a lot of time and effort, and while I’m definitely enjoying writing these, I decided that I would have to do more of a “weekly impression” thing and limit full write-ups to maybe three shows? Anyway! Here are my brief thoughts for week 4 of the winter season!

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu Season 2: Ep. 4

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu keeps chugging out solid but completely filler episodes, but I’ve genuinely enjoyed the experience of each episode so far. The comedy is smart and self-aware, and the characters are likable and charming despite remaining fairly one-note. The episode smartly made new kid Itona the star of its first act, focusing on the growing camaraderie between him and the rest of the class. Itona remains a bit of a cipher, but his unfiltered tongue made for some of the best lines of the episode.

The first act’s plot was rather weak — concupiscent adolescent boys using electronic gadgets to illicitly spy on their female classmates is as hackneyed a storyline as they come — but the military-style presentation and self-aware dialogue still made it work. Self-awareness was the name of the game (hah) in the second act; code-naming the students was a hilarious homage to the fact that Koro-sensei’s students are pretty much unidentifiable beyond a single defining characteristic. The unfortunately-named Masayoshi “Justice” Kimura was sort of the star of this second act, and I suppose not learning anything about him beyond having parents in law enforcement was some kind of twisted irony.

Other random observations:

  • Plot-wise, absolutely nothing happened, other than an extremely sinister but nubilous final scene involving Kunugigaoka’s malevolent principal and his sycophantic son.
  • Itona’s barbed tongue paired with his impassive countenance are an absolute delight.
  • Some of my favorite codenames: Da Densest, President Poverty, Womanizing Scumbag, Fluffy Stag Beetle, Director Mushroom, Picture-book Graduate(?), English Lass, This Manga is Amazing!, Dating Sim Emo Character, Box of Moë, Kunugigaoka’s Mom.

Haruchika Ep. 4

Haruchika surprisingly delivered a much more enjoyable viewing experience this week; I even laughed out loud at the moments I was supposed to. One of the biggest issues that I had with Haruchika was the lack of opposition to Haruta’s bullish character; Haruchika managed to amend that by introducing one of Haruta’s domineering sisters, who showed up after finding out that her brother been rendered homeless and living under the charity of his school’s Animal Care Club. Kamijo Minami kept Haruta under her thumb for the entire episode, which not only made him more tolerable, but also shed some light on how his family shaped him into the person that he is today.

This week’s mystery was forgettable as it was implausible — a seemingly haunted apartment complex that turned out to be giant piggy bank — but it was at least the first mystery that Haruta solved without coming across as an insensitive prick. Haruchika’s main problem right now is that its “mystery” components feel very disposable; their only purpose is to make Haruta look smart, but makes every other character seem like an accessory. I can’t help but compare Haruchika to Hyouka, which had similar themes but was much more exemplary at weaving character dynamics with the mystery of the week.

But let’s stick to the positives — Haruchika made great strides in making Haruta a much more likable character, a feat that I’d frankly thought was impossible after the last two episodes. They just need to make sure that at least one Haruta’s sisters is always around to keep him in his place.

Other random thoughts:

  • I absolutely love that Haruta is a shameless freeloader. He even has travel chopsticks!
  • Without their sob stories, Miyoko and Maren’s characters have become as flat as Chika’s flute-playing skills.
  • Chika and Haruta’s feud over Kusakabe-sensei continues to be amusing, which is surprising since gags like these tend to get old really quickly.
  • On the other hand, seeing Chika beat up Haruta never gets old.
  • Minami, and presumably the rest of Haruta’s family, don’t seem to be aware of his sexual orientation, something that I’m hoping that Haruchika will eventually explore in greater depth.

Musaigen no Phantom World Ep. 4

Phantom World’s turned its focus to the buffet-loving Reina this week, and despite some rather heavy-handed storytelling, it feels like Phantom World is getting into a pretty good groove with its character dynamics and changing themes. It helped that this week’s theme of family was considerably less high-brow than previous episodes, and there was much less explicatory dialogue as a result. I appreciate that Phantom World had been dropping hints to Reina’s backstory — her apparent jealousy of Mai and Haruhiko’s comfortable dynamic, her always calling Mai “Onee-sama” — so her family backstory didn’t feel like it had been sprung completely out of left field.

That being said, Reina’s backstory was handled with the delicacy of a treacle-laden mallet. I was pretty tickled by the bunny Phantoms and really liked fairy-tale-like quality of Reina’s fantasy home, but we didn’t need Reina to us that she was having family troubles; that security camera and hulking gate outside Reina’s house was more than enough. This is still Phantom World’s biggest problem — it’s relying way too heavily on expository dialogue and doesn’t seem to trust its own art and animation to tell the story. This episode was pleasantly less verbose, but Phantom World hasn’t done much better in making me empathize with its characters.

Other random thoughts:

  • I’m still not a fan of Haruhiko’s intro lecture, but it was fun seeing Haruhiko in various Aztec-inspired vestments.
  • Haruhiko snaps out of his trance while doing his thing on the toilet, because bathrooms are apparently mystical portals to other dimensions.
  • Reina has a talk with her parents and they give her permission to stay on in Phantom Fight Club. After all that conflict and build-up and talk of how her parents despise Phantoms, this easy resolution felt like a major let-down.
  • Phantom World really is rich with symbolism and metaphor, and I would enjoy those elements more if the writers would cut down on the plot-splaining and let the world do its own talking.
  • The Phantoms continue to be the show’s most fascinating component. We’ve seen them manifested as memories, subconscious desires, and suppressed emotions — I want to see Phantom World tackle these philosophical abstracts head on, but I have a feeling that we may never get to that depth because Phantom World hasn’t shown that level of dexterity.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime S2 Ep. 4

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime did something that it had never done before: it ended its episode on a cliffhanger. This show couldn’t be further away from the thriller genre, and yet Akagami adeptly handled the converging plotlines with a real sense of tension. We still have no idea who Kazuki is, what his motivations are, or who he’s working with, but at this point in the story it didn’t really matter, because Akagami has invested so much time in making us care deeply about the main characters.

Meanwhile, Raj is slowly turning the love triangle into a love square, and is even becoming one of my favorite characters this season. Raj had always been an overindulged brat, but was never a pernicious personality, and it’s a testament to Akagami’s deft character work they’ve been able to distinguish between those attributes and gradually mold Raj into much more respectable human being. As always, the character interactions are wonderfully nuanced and multilayered, even as Akagami continues to move its story forward with an untrodden sense of urgency.

Other random thoughts:

  • Zen declaring his wish to marry Shirayuki in front of his brother was very much in character, but probably not the wisest move. On the other hand, Shirayuki couldn’t even say out loud she that she misses Zen, even after being nudged by Obi.
  • Poor Obi. I would ship Shirayuki x Obi so hard if Shirayuki x Zen hadn’t boarded the S.S. Love At First Sight and sailed off into the horizon.
  • Rona is one perceptive and meddling princess, and thank goodness for her brother, otherwise she might have sunk two ships even before Kazuki and company could arrive at Tanbarun.
  • Izana continues to play the obstacle in Zen and Shirayuki’s path, but I like that his objections are based in concern for his kingdom and not the snobbish whims of a blue-blooded royal.

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu Ep. 4

Durarara!! continues its dance upon the circus tightrope, and I’m genuinely amazed it hasn’t yet fallen into a safety net of illogically convenient plot and character resolutions. Chikage and Izumii return to for payback against Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves, Anri resolves to use Saika for benevolent purposes, Shizuo gets released from prison, Varona steals Anri’s head, Haruna gets kidnapped by her pervy old teacher, and perhaps most importantly, Erika invites Kasane to join her Cosplay Club.

Anri’s identity crisis as a Saika-wielding continues to intrigue, because it ties directly into how she continually doubts her value as a friend to Mikado and Masaomi. As Kasane pointed out, Anri is virtuous by nature, and is too kind to wield Saika’s full potential, but is also still believes that her meek nature makes her a parasitic friend. Kasane is as robotic as she was last week, but there was a chilling efficiency with the way she dealt with Anri and Haruna as nothing more than a normal business transaction. Each of Ikebukuro’s players are rapidly making their moves, but Kasane, now a self-proclaimed villain, remains the biggest wildcard of the bunch — she seems to be making the rounds across Ikebukuro, maneuvering Ikebukuro’s players for her own crytic plan.

Other random thoughts:

  • Yes, Durarara!! is still chaos personified. But part of its fun is unraveling its tangled web, and Ketsu remains enjoyable because it managed to find some of the heart that went missing in the earlier cour of the season.
  • I didn’t realize Masaomi was such an agile fighter. I’d also forgotten that Chikage is almost as invulnerable as Shizuo.
  • I doubt Haruna’s old teacher is working alone, but I can’t think of anyone in the cast who’d be willing to work with such a sleazebag (that even includes Izaya). That being said, we got glimpses of some upskirt ickiness near the episode’s end, and I’m hoping that we won’t go further down that route.
  • I get the feeling that everyone will be playing hot potato with Celty’s head for the rest of the season.
  • Erika continues to be Durarara!!’s MVP.
  • Some of the characters were getting a little off-model in this episode. This also started happening in the last two cours at around the same time; both Shō and Ten managed to get itself sorted out, so hopefully Ketsu will get a little cleaner by its conclusion.
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