Week 6 impressions: Part 1

The fact that I am finding difficulty in curtailing my so-called weekly impressions to a concise paragraph is pretty telling of my newness to anime stream blogging. Meanwhile, I’m now almost 4 episodes behind on Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, but let’s keep the self-aggrandizement to a minimum, shall we? You probably didn’t come here to read about me mope about my failings in life. And on that note, let’s jump into the first part of me thinking about the shows I watched this past week!

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu S2: Ep. 6

You may have grown too strong. Drunk on your own power, you forgot to put yourself in the shoes of someone weaker than you. That makes you no different than the students on the main campus.

– Koro-sensei’s lecture of the week

One of Ansatsu Kyoushitsu’s constants is its theme of underdog hardship, which makes this episode a nice change in tone as it finally acknowledges the E class as individuals with powerful and potentially dangerous abilities. “With great power comes great responsibility” is the most clichéd adage in superhero lore, but class E learned its lesson the hard way when they accidentally hurt an old man while parkouring across building rooftops. Of course, the old man also happens to run a daycare center for underprivileged kids, and Koro-sensei has the class babysit the kids for two weeks as remuneration while the old man recuperates.

This is one clichéd mess.

– Yoshida Taisei, self-appointed voice of the audience

The daycare center scenes were rather heavy-handed with its “triumph over adversity” metaphors, but was balanced out by the self-aware humor that Ansatsu has become so good at deploying. On the other hand, Koro-sensei forbidding class E from studying for their midterms made very little narrative sense — that there are more important things in life than acing exams was an obvious lesson — but it rang hollow after his class had worked so hard to get their rankings up during the previous midterm exam arc. At least we got to see Karma’s hard work come to fruition when he revealed that he’d come in second in his year overall. Meanwhile, Nagisa reminds that there are only five months left until Koro-sensei’s assassination deadline, perhaps hinting that Ansatsu Kyoushitsu might finally be ramping its narrative to a higher gear.

Other random thoughts:

  • If I had the agility of anyone in class E, there wouldn’t be a day that I wouldn’t parkour over rooftops to get to work or school.
  • The scenes at the daycare center were pretty well-tailored to each character’s defining traits.
  • The cheese was almost too much this episode, but that being said, the old man and his kids were quite charming, and it was nice seeing the E class in roles outside of their classroom comfort zone.
  • Sakura-chan observations on the brutal reality of child bullying was depressingly astute.

Musaigen no Phantom World: Ep. 6

Bears everywhere. That’s why the world in your mind is filled with bears.

– Ichijo Haruhiko, armchair psychologist

So this is how you make a good episode of Musaigen no Phantom World: get the writers on drugs, or some combination of honey and mushrooms. Unlike Mai, Reina, and Koito, Kurumi’s backstory was pleasantly devoid of any dramatic trauma, and her foray into her subconscious stemmed more from self-doubt than any kind of personal ordeal. Rather than relying on verbose character exposition as it had done in the past, Phantom World illustrated Kurumi’s psyche by letting its colorful metaphors and symbolism do the majority of the talking. Kurumi also had a relatable innocence that made this episode much more appealing than its predecessors; letting go of your childhood defenses to face your self-doubts and is something that we’ve all grappled with, and Phantom World did pretty well in nudging Kurumi’s maturation, with or without that magical girl transformation. The bear symbolisms were probably a little overdone, but at least KyoAni made delightfully charming work of Kurumi’s fantasy of cuddly bear knights, honeyed castles, and mushroom forests. The weekly themes have also gotten significantly less high-brow, and Phantom World is doing better with these more grounded themes that require less obtuse elaboration.

Other random thoughts:

  • Koito takes a diabetic amount of sugar with her coffee. I have a feeling that might become something significant in the near future.
  • Whatever criticisms I’ve been having with Phantom World’s storytelling, its well-drawn visuals remain imaginative and enchanting.
  • I wonder if Albrecht is the only stuffed animal that Kurumi can summon as a giant bodyguard.
  • I don’t think I’ve seen a male character as embarrassingly as unfit as Haruhiko since Code Geass‘s Lelouch Lamperouge.

HaruChika: Ep. 6

I can’t calm down unless I see Sensei several times a day.

– Kamijo Haruta on his daily placebo

HaruChika’s opening scene didn’t bode well for the rest of the episode — a lone child, surrounded by broken toys in an empty room, dramatically pledging her life to music — it reeked of the overwrought and inconsequential drama that had plagued HaruChika’s first few episodes. So I was pleasantly surprised that this ended up being HaruChika’s strongest episode to date. I’d always felt that the character comedy was one of HaruChika’s stronger suits, especially Chika’s antics and her sharp banter with Haruta. Chika’s hilariously reckless and spontaneous personality has been criminally underused the past few episodes, and it was clear this week that the show needs her to balance out Haruta’s coolly cavalier and often insufferable character.

This week we’re introduced to yet another character and potential band member, Serizawa Naoko, and was the first character to not be defined by a tragic backstory. HaruChika gave Chika free rein to interact with Naoko, which allowed Naoko to expand her character much more organically than Haruta did with Miyoko and Maren, and the mystery surrounding her character felt better integrated into HaruChika’s larger story. Her introduction also brought the club’s competition goals into perspective for the first time, and it’ll be interesting to see how the club continues to deal with its shortcomings in the upcoming episodes. I’ve given HaruChika a lot of (well-deserved) flack so far, but I’m glad to see it coming into its own as we inch past the middle mark of the winter season.

Other random thoughts:

  • Naoko was checking the snare drum and timpani for a childhood friend, who also happens to be only character in the OP yet to be introduced. Of course, ponytail-drummer guy is hinted to have a tragic backstory, and I’m praying that HaruChika handles his introduction with the same nuance as it did with Naoko.
  • I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve used the words “tragic backstory” while reviewing this anime.
  • It’s inevitable that Naoko will eventually join the club, but it was nice to finally see someone stand toe-to-toe against Haruta other than his sister.
  • Kusakabe-sensei reply to Naoko’s question about his current role as music teacher and past aspirations to be a conductor was most revealing for its brevity and quiet resignation.
  • Chika has made considerable progress with her flute-playing skills, but she’s still pretty terrible compared to everyone else in the club. Nice to see HaruChika reminding everyone that mastering a musical instrument is no easy feat.
  • Chika had a lot of great moments this episode, but my favorite was her ecstatic reaction to receiving a fancy cream bun as remuneration from the driver of a car that nearly ran her over.
  • Haruta and Chika bickering over Kusakabe-sensei continues to be one the best elements of the series. On paper, two characters fighting for the attention of an older man is so sexist and clichéd that it shouldn’t work, but it works for Haruta and Chika because their infatuations for Kusakabe-sensei aren’t their characters’ only memorable traits. That their contrasting personalities have fantastic chemistry in during  the more impassioned scenes also helps.
  • On one hand, I really want HaruChika to delve deeper into Haruta’s psyche and standing as a gay male adolescent. But on the other, I’m really enjoying the refreshing normalcy in which HaruChika is treating his sexuality as just another aspect of his character.
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