Week 5 impressions

The biggest issue I have with these write-ups is that I always end up taking much longer than I anticipate. Leaving aside my tendency to overwrite (which is pretty much a given anyway), there are screenshots, and then editing, and finally uploading and doing a final round of edits before publishing. And I also keep finding myself behind the airing schedules of the shows I’m covering. It’s more work than I originally thought, but I’m still enjoying every moment of it. It’s an extremely gratifying feeling putting up piece of writing that you feel (at that moment, anyway) is worth sharing with others on the Internet. Anyway, on to my one-week-late impressions of week 5!

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu S2: Ep. 5 

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu delivers another feel-good, character-focused episode, even as the plot keeps inching forward at the pace of a snail. This week the spotlight is on Isogai Yuma, class E’s esteemed leader and all-around man’s man and lady’s man, who is also dirt poor and has to work part-time in a restaurant to support his family. Unfortunately for Isogai, part-time jobs are against Kunugigaoka’s rules, and is of course found out by Asano, class A’s leader, who challenges the E class to a game of pole-toppling, promising to keep Isogai’s job a secret if class E manages to win. And of course, Class E does win the challenge, with the odds stacked mightily against them.

This is Ansatsu’s tried-and-true story formula, one that manages to feel satisfying however many ways it’s been spun. All the tropes are there — the last boss villain and cartoonish minions, the roundabout strategies and unlikely champions. But Ansatsu always makes episodes of this type more enjoyable than it should be. Part of its success lies with its creative humor, but the secret lies with its perpetually likable main cast. Ansatsu makes it easy to root for class E, even as it keeps pumping out episodes that aren’t incredibly substantive.

Other random thoughts:

  • The jokes throughout this episode were again focused on the relatively one-dimensional aspects of each character. I’m getting a little tired of Kaede’s flat-chest jokes, but I chuckled at the majority of the other quips in the episode.
  • Good on Ansatsu for getting actual American voice actors for those American giants. Heck, even the way they behaved screamed “Look how American I am!!”
  • Most of the blogosphere seemed put off by some of the students’ Engrish. But which would be more realistic — Japanese students speaking English with a Japanese accent, or Japanese students speaking English with an American/British/Australian/anything non-Japanese accent?
  • Asano may be an arrogant prick, but at least we’re slowly learning more about the upbringing that led to his current psyche.
  • Isogai’s proclivity for Social Studies didn’t come out of nowhere; he was the class’s top scorer during last season’s exam arc. As superficial as it may be, I’m still happy that Ansatsu remembers these little details while writing its stories.

Musaigen no Phantom World: Ep. 5

Musaigen no Phantom World keeps chugging along with another character-centric episode, this time with the tsunderrific Minase Koito. Episodes like these are pretty cut-and-dry — male protagonist tries to make friends with aloof female character, male protagonist gets shut down, female character’s tragic past is revealed, female character gets into trouble, male protagonist and friends save female character, the formerly aloof female character starts becoming friendlier with male protagonist and his friends.

I think I’ve come to temper my expectations for Phantom World — at this point, it’s probably not going to overcome its clunky storytelling or penchant toward plot-splaining. The characters aren’t unlikable, but they haven’t endeared beyond their stock personalities. But Phantom World’s universe remains captivating and eclectic, and Haruhiko’s dilettantish behavior does provide interesting insights to Phantom World’s creative inspirations. My only hope of Phantom World is that it goes deeper into the Phantom mythology — the pixelated phantasms are the subject of every episode but remain as much of a mystery as Ruru-chan’s continued existence.

Other random thoughts:

  • I am serious about Ruru-chan as the show’s biggest mystery — everyone just seems to accept her as a troll with wings who doubles as Haruhiko’s personal assistant — what kind of Phantom is she, where did she come from, and why does she choose to stick with Haruhiko?
  • Phantom World is really starting to feel like a harem anime, which I’m not excited about at all.
  • Kumamakura Kurumi is a tongue-twister of a name.
  • Himeno-sensei is a troll of a teacher and I rather like it.
  • Albrecht, Kurumi’s stuffed bear and bodyguard, is hinted to have a malevolent purpose, which makes me feel both dread and excitement for the next episode.
  • The Phantom Control Agency was mentioned once again, and I’m wondering how big of a role the agency will play if Phantom World ever decides to expand its narrative beyond club activities.

HaruChika: Ep. 5

Haruchika went all-in on its mystery of the week, while also introducing yet another character, Goto Akari, whose personality was unfortunately as generic they come. The mystery she presented had an intriguing set-up — an amnesiac grandfather, three similar paintings differentiated only by a single color, and an elusive color known as elephant’s breath — and the seriousness in its presentation was clearly meant to deliver some emotional heft. The problem was that Haruchika didn’t do the groundwork to draw emotional investment toward the story — Akari came off self-absorbed and tactless, and her grandparents felt less like actual characters than plot devices. Even the solution felt implausible and contrived — somehow Akari’s grandfather, while trying to make it as a painter in Chicago during the riots of 1966, got drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, and began suffering from PTSD when he returned to Japan in the 1970s. There was a fair amount of art and American history woven into the narrative, which was the crux of this episode’s problem — there was far too much plot-splaining of the historical context that just couldn’t into 20 minutes, and what we got was an episode shortchanged in terms of any character growth or emotional drive.

To his credit, Haruta actually showed some restraint in the hospital confrontation scene, which may have been due to his historical knowledge than actual character development. Meanwhile, Chika, Miyoko, and Maren were reduced to generic, teenaged bobble heads, and we learned that Kusakabe-sensei is inexplicably well-versed in Vietnam War weapon operations. The trombone-playing Akari doesn’t even go to Haruta’s school, but given the pattern of the past episodes we can probably expect to see her again.

Other random thoughts:

  • Please bring back Haruta’s sisters.
  • For some reason, Haruta’s problem-solving skills are conveniently renowned across local high school brass band clubs.
  • Egregious grammar and misspellings in English texts might be the most overlooked problem in all of anime.
  • The invention club may or may not have met had a transaction with Takanashi Sota from Wagnaria.
  • We need to see more of student council president Hinohara and his Invention Club lackeys.
  • Chika’s flute-playing skills are actually starting to be in tune, and I was genuinely surprised by Chika’s ability to make a delicious bento lunch.

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime S2: Ep. 5

Akagami no Shirayuki-hime presses on with its journey into uncharted waters this week, while Obi and Raj continue their fight for the season’s new male lead. Obi and Raj share one thing in common: their feelings for Shirayuki are murky, but the same feelings that propelled both of them into action this week. Obi maintaining his cool, genial façade was somewhat unnerving, and the moment when he snapped felt very natural and well-executed. The animation also kept pace with his transformation to a more visceral being, visible in his animalistic movements and facial expressions, especially during his second fight with Itoya. Raj’s reactions were much less extreme, but it was satisfying seeing him take try to take action despite his limited skillset.

Shirayuki’s fate is still up in the air, although we can say with some certainty that pretty boy Kazuki and elder guardsman Itoya aren’t as much of a threat as we thought them to be, which in part was due to clever misdirection from the writers. There were a lot of random clues and plot elements being tossed around — the mountain men whom Kazuki calls his friends, a mysterious old man whom Kazuki kept referring as his father, and the seafaring pirates known as the Claw of the Sea — it all centered around Shirayuki, who seems to be utterly confused of her role in this conspiracy. This is by far the most plot-heavy Akagami no Shirayuki-hime has ever been, and while it’s been a fun excursion from its reliable staple of character-driven slice-of-life, I’m getting nervous that it won’t be able to stick the landing. All I’m hoping for is that this storyline has some significance for Shirayuki’s character and background, which has been heavily under-illustrated thus far. The clues and plot pieces seem to be in place, now Akagami no Shirayuki-hime just needs to put them together.

Other random thoughts:

  • Kazuki mentioned that he was bringing Shirayuki back to where she belonged. If this isn’t another hint to her origins, I don’t know what is.
  • Poor Raj — even his own father has a painfully low opinion of him.
  • I wonder about the role of kings and queens in Tanbarun and Clarines, who seem to take much more passive roles in governing their kingdoms in comparison to their sons and daughters. This episode marked the first time that the word “king” had even been mentioned, there was some trepidation in the air when his request to see Zen and Raj was announced.
  • Zen really hasn’t done much this season, has he?
  • Some LOL-moments: the Claw of the Sea being made up of members with unique abilities and extraordinarily good looks, and Shirayuki and Obi exclaiming “bishōnen!” when they set eyes on Kazuki for the first time. I don’t know if the writers are being tongue-in-cheek or utterly genuine with its G-rated fujoshi-pandering.

Durarara!!X2 Ketsu: Ep. 5

What the hell is going on here?

– Togusa Saburo and everyone else watching

I’m beginning to think that the only way I can fairly review DRRR!! would be to judge it as a whole, with all the storylines resolved and episodes aired. Because right now, all its balls are up in the air and I have no idea where any of them will land. On the plus side, this episode felt five minutes long, but it was like five minutes of rapid-fire whack-a-mole. Last week I said that the Kasane was the biggest wild card in Ikebukuro, but I was only half right: Kasane has plenty of aces up her sleeve, and is set on upending Ikebukuro by whatever means necessary. Within the episode’s first minute, Kasane kisses Shinra, possesses him with her Saika, literally steals Shinra from Celty’s arms, destroys half her apartment, and shows off her spidey-skills as she battled Celty across Ikebukuro’s skyscrapers. It’s pretty clear that Kasane is a giant plot device, designed to forcibly push the rest of the cast into any kind of plot-driven action. But Kasane remains a complete mystery — her backstory, motivations, and aspirations are practically unexplored — but she’s messing with Ikebukuro’s status quo in ways that Izaya never could. If Izaya is the puppeteer in the shadows, Kasane is the bull-voiced director with a script only she can see. Kasane might drive DRRR!! off its already shaky rails, but at least it still promises to be a hell of a ride.

Meanwhile, other characters also did some stuff. It turned out that Kasane had hired Varona to steal Celty’s head and assist with Shinra’s kidnapping. Chikage lends an injured Masaomi a listening ear after rescuing him from Izumii’s mallet. Shizuo goes around the city scaring kids before teaming up with Celty’s horse/chariot/any imaginable vehicle, while Anri gets a visit from Mikajima Saki, who finally does something other than petting Masaomi’s moody blonde head while lying in bed. We do dive in a little deeper into Varona’s psyche, who continues to question the satisfaction of working as an assassin after enjoying a more peaceful period as Shizuo’s debt-collecting sidekick. But we didn’t learn anything substantial; Varona’s backstory and psychology had already been pretty well explored in the last cour, and this brief dive into her mind served to remind that she still has a role to play in Ikebukuro’s politics, as well as her charmingly offbeat relationship with Shizuo.

Other random thoughts:

  • I keep feeling that I’m watching more set-up than execution of plot. How many more dominoes can DRRR!! keep setting up before it accidentally knocks one over?
  • With Celty dissolving her consciousness into a ball of black energy, Saburo may be the only sane character not mortally wounded, experiencing an existential crisis, or starting up turf war among color gangs.
  • Kasane looked more alive than she’d ever been as she was being pursued by Celty.
  • Why would any parent let their kids roam the streets of Ikebukuro at night?
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