This week was a week of meh.
Meanwhile, I realize that my write-ups are also getting shorter by each passing week, which was a deliberate choice because pumping out eight write-ups was starting to eat into real life. Writing shorter essays are actually more challenging that writing longer essays; conciseness and precision are definitely a practiced art. But anyway!
Ansatsu Kyoushitsu S2
Just do whatever you want! The boys with their usual pent-up lust, the girls with their usual envy of my beauty — just let it all out in an explosion of sexual violence!”
– Irina letting loose on her innermost desires
So after last week’s disquieting introduction of the Reaper, this week he turned out to be as threatening as a temperamental kitten. At least that’s what it felt seeing Karasuma-sensei so easily dispatching a villain who’d been hinted at since the second season premiere, but I did like the Reaper’s defeat was thanks to Karasuma’s experience and guile instead of a never-before-seen ability pulled out of his top hat. Meanwhile, Irina’s character arc unfortunately turned out to be as clichéd and convenient as I’d feared it would be. To be fair, her character’s actions in this episode did make sense with her background; the problem was that her background felt crammed into the episode as a convenient way to explain away her actions of the past two episodes. And yes, we’d seen glimpses of her background in the past, but her sudden betrayal and swift reconciliation with the E class still felt like a shortcut to genuine character development. It also didn’t help that Irina, despite her credentials as a world-class assassin, was essentially reduced to the role of blushing-damsel-in-distress. In the end, the characters came out of this story arc the same going in, which makes these two episodes feel like cannon fodder even though the build-up was clearly intended for something greater.
Other random thoughts:
- Of course Class E had a secret stash of camouflage spray.
- The government isn’t afraid to use the students of Class E as collateral, which could become a potential storyline further down the line.
- We’re only just a quarter of the way through this two-cour season, so I’m hoping that “Operation Last Assassination” at least turns out to be less than this dud of an episode.
- Clichés and sentimentality aside, Ansatsu Kyoushitsu’s contradictory themes (like insisting that the students be in safe place so they can kill) consistently make for good viewing.
Musaigen no Phantom World
What’s with this texture? It’s like the bristles are dancing. What softness… what softness… what softness! It’s like a top-quality canvas!
– Haruhiko delighting in the texture of Mai’s bum
It’s finally happened — Phantom World has now officially jumped the shark. In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised; Phantom World’s absurdity levels have been steadily increasing for a good few weeks now, but this episode wins the season in terms of unabashed tomfoolery. At least there were absolutely no pretenses about what this episode was trying to do: 100% slapstick comedy, 0% substance, and about 1000% fanservice, where pretty much every female character got the chance to be fought over like the last piece of fresh meat at the morning wet market. But despite the nonsense, I was actually laughing out loud at brazen lunacy of it all. We’re almost three-quarters of the way through the winter season and Phantom World decides to do an even more lascivious twist on the infamous bathhouse trope that has absolutely no consequences on the story? That’s the last card Phantom World needed to show to let us know that we should harbor absolutely no expectations for the rest of the season.
Other random thoughts:
- A hot spring full of apes conjures itself in the school’s courtyard and barely anyone bats an eye. Is their school actually Hogwarts?
- At least the animation and visuals were top-notch to match the ludicrous and ultimately ineffectual display of students’ powers.
- And at least its cultural references remain refreshingly eclectic.
- I just couldn’t even with the fanservice. And I thought it couldn’t get worse from what we saw in the first episode.
- What the heck is Kurumi even doing at the high school on a school day?
Do you want to sleep together?
– only Chika can say this with a straight face
After two pretty strong weeks, HaruChika falls back to mediocrity again with this combination of onigiri, first loves, and weird animal metaphors. HaruChika has had penchant for laying on the metaphors while regaling its mysteries of the week, and this episode was a stark example of the HaruChika getting metaphorical just for the sake of it. The premise of the mystery wasn’t a bad one, but its execution didn’t do any favors by making it pretentiously obtuse until the very end. The other major problem was that it didn’t have any real significance to Naoko’s character development or HaruChika’s larger story; it was again trying to go for emotional catharsis without first laying the appropriate groundwork to get there. It also doesn’t help that the only characters with distinct personalities are Haruta and Chika, while everyone else are either bland as woodwork or just outrageously eccentric.
Other random thoughts:
- Why was Naoko’s Aunt Kyoko consulting with a high school club in the first place?
- Naoko is also not a child; I’m sure she could have handled the true story of her aunt’s first love without the animal metaphors.
- Thank goodness for Chika’s presence. She’s shouldering almost all the laughs for the show on her own.
- Chika gets a lot of great one-liners, but Haruta’s leanings to over-the-top dramatics is also pretty amusing.
- Haruta didn’t get to profess his love for Kusakabe-sensei and the episode was considerably less entertaining without it.
- Haruta and Chika have graduated to bickering husband and wife, and it’s pretty great.
- Chika is actually starting to sound pretty good on her flute.
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime S2
Does that mean it doesn’t matter what I think?
– Shirayuki needs to get this printed on a T-shirt
Akagami no Shirayuki-hime is really making up ground for the lack of Shirayuki x Zen scenes — there was enough adorableness in these two episodes to last the rest of the season. We were also properly introduced to Mukaze, Shirayuki’s estranged father, and the encounter between them was about as uneventful and drama-free as you would expect from the first season of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime. The problem was that this second season of Akagami no Shirayuki-hime has been nothing like its first season, so while its understated resolution might have worked in the first season, it was a letdown here, especially after last week’s cliffhanger that framed Mukaze’s introduction as the culmination of this story arc. Another thing was the entire Claw of the Sea detour — in retrospect, it did nothing but build tension to a climax wasn’t there to begin with, and I can safely say there weren’t any substantial character moments that couldn’t have been developed elsewhere. The only possible exception is Raj, but we’d already seen plenty of growth even before Shirayuki was kidnapped. Despite my misgivings, I still enjoyed this episode; it was a pleasant throwback to the congenial air of the first season, and I won’t complain if it continues to stick with its bread-and-butter of low-key storytelling. But I’ve come to expect a little more than just “pleasant” from Akagami no Shirayuki-hime. It’s built a thoroughly immersive world inhabited by relatable characters; I just wish it had fulfilled its promise of upping the ante with its plot and character dynamics.
Other random thoughts:
- I love that Shirayuki didn’t hesitate while turning down Kazuki’s request to stay on the village. She knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to say it.
- I also love that Zen might be slightly jealous of Raj, which is a statement that would have sounded completely ludicrous at the start of this season.
- Zen’s feelings for Shirayuki are about as clear as day, but it’s pretty notable that Shirayuki still hasn’t been able to bring herself to be honest about her feelings, even after having her life threatened by comically murderous pirates.
- Kiki thanks Mitsuhide for worrying about her, which gives us more insight to Kiki’s character than we’ve seen through the entire series.
- It’s been a while since we’ve seen a happy-go-lucky Obi.
- A sassy Sakaki is always a delight.
Durarara!! X2 Ketsu
No matter how bizarre the incident may be, the second it happens it seems routine. Pay no attention. Let it slide. That’s my credo for living in this city.
– The Dummies Guide to Surviving Ikebukuro, by Tom Tanaka
It’s gotten to the point where I honestly can’t tell if Durarara!! has completely gone off the rails or is right where it planned to be. But by now, is there really a difference? About ten disparate events were happening at once in this episode, and it’s a given that things aren’t going to end well for most of the players in this spectacle. Izaya and Shizuo begin their death match, Dotachin finally makes his first appearance of the season, Tom gets trapped in Russia Sushi by Hayashi’s Saika zombies, Chikage hacks the chatroom and threatens Namie and Mikado with Seiji and Masaomi’s life respectively, and Celty is reunited with her head, rendering her with memory loss and promising to rain even more mayhem on Ikebukuro. There was a brief flashback to Shinra and Izaya’s high school days, reminding us that even a sociopath needed to be groomed, and the person doing all of the grooming was Shinra. Mikado’s secret gift from Izumii unspectacularly turned out to be a firearm, which Mikado has of course no idea how to use, but what promises to be more intriguing was his choice of meeting venue with Chikage. Things are quickly converging in Ikebukuro, and I’m hoping that the climactic crash will be entertaining at the very least.
Other random thoughts:
- Hayashi is the stereotypical sleazebag character who is just waiting for a takedown.
- Namie is the character who is closest to snapping like a dry twig, and that’s saying something when everyone in Ikebukuro is at least slightly deranged.
- Poor Masaomi continues to be a hapless fool.
- The Russians were really making their mark in this episode.
- As though it isn’t bad enough that Celty hasn’t been in contact with her head for a good few hundred years, her head gets tossed around like a football before it finally reunites with its body.
- The relationship between Mikado and Aoba continues to feel like an unsettling game of cat-and-mouse.