Winter 2018 Mid-Season Thoughts

Hello, everybody, and welcome back for this mid-season update on For Great Justice! First things first, sorry for the one-week delay: Yata got the flu a short while ago and had to catch up academically, and Haru got bogged down at work and had to catch up on anime itself (some of which he just dropped, and frankly, that’s probably a good call). But better late than never! This season’s still managing to impress overall, and we’re excited to finally check in on how everything’s faring. What are our favorites? What’s falling short? And is Citrus good, actually? There aren’t too many hot takes this time, but there are a few down there, and now’s as good a time as any to check them out before we reach our final thoughts next month. Read on!

A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE (SORA YORI MO TOOI BASHO)


Yatahaze:
Generally, an anime’s first few episodes will show off the series’ visual merits at their peak, in part as a quick sell to draw people in, but also because the crew working on it is less crunched for time than they are mid-run. Gotta say though, if there’s any mid-run drama at Madhouse right now, it sure as hell isn’t reflected in A Place Further Than The Universe. Its animation and direction are as tight as they’ve been all season long. From a production standpoint, Yorimoi is one of the best shows currently airing.

And frankly, I’ll extend that praise to the series as a whole. It may not necessarily put out my favorite episode on any given week, but it’s a consistently wonderful slow burn. Though when I say “slow,” I don’t mean its individual scenes are subdued. Usually the opposite—the main quartet is a very lively bunch and their conversations are filled with clever, realistic banter. It’s just taking a very long time for them to reach Antarctica. We’re eight episodes into a 13-episode run and they’ve only just seen drift ice. As of 2 episodes ago, they hadn’t even gotten on board the ship taking them there.

Those expecting a snappy arrival to the world’s most isolated continent may find themselves disappointed, but as the cast inches closer to its shores, I’m adopting the hunch that exploring the Antarctic isn’t really what the show had in mind from the start. The lengthy character development before the gang even left Japan would support that notion: Kimari and Hinata wanted to make memories, Yuzuki wanted to find friends, and Shirase wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps. All of them have already accomplished these things, and while traveling south helped facilitate that, Shirase’s goal is the only one that can be fulfilled solely through arriving in Antarctica. Where we, the audience, hopped in, she was the driving force of the story, but now that the four girls are with the rest of the expedition, the scope has widened. The youthful naïveté of high-schoolers shooting for the stars now lives side-by-side with the weathered optimism of people who’ve already been there, experienced tumult, and still feel drawn back. The adults have mostly occupied the sidelines so far, but there’s more to them than we’ve seen, and I’m looking just as forward to the show fleshing them out as I am the ship reaching its destination.

After all, Yorimoi has already proven to be a “the journey is more important” type of series. Its characters grow internally, gaining confidence and purpose, and they face the unknown with their heads held high, whether that be addressing fractured friendships with their childhood pals or scrambling to re-arrange flights during a layover. Most shows that manage this conviction tend to carry an inherent sense of bittersweetness, but I’ve almost ceaselessly received a feeling of warmth and compassion from Yorimoi. As of now, it’s my personal favorite show of the season, and I see no reason to believe it won’t still be when it ends next month.
Current score: 9/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

AFTER THE RAIN (KOI WA AMEAGARI NO YOU NI)


Yatahaze:
I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen a romance anime where I’ve cheered this hard for the protagonists to find happiness beyond their immediate crush. The show’s relationships are a delicate balancing act, and every week I’m nervous it’ll blow it, but it hasn’t so far.

So here’s where we’re at: Akira developed a crush on Kondou probably because she doesn’t find her peers all that attractive and she needs something else to focus on after her ankle injury halted her track performance. Kondou accepts this to an extent because her attention makes him feel hip and youthful himself, but that’s not a sentiment limited to her. In this way, Kondou isn’t really seeking a romantic relationship—he’s just trying to be helpful or useful because he otherwise feels past his prime.

In that sense, After The Rain isn’t ignoring the age gap at all: Akira’s teenage impatience and Kondou’s learned resignation are incompatible but make each value the other. They see in one another things that they themselves want to attain, and as sometimes goes in real relationships, those desires fall short once they see through the myth for what it is. Kondou knows it and he doesn’t even really need to try: he’s responsible enough to see not just that a relationship with Akira would never work, but that Akira herself is too young to notice the flaws in his own character. Until now, they two had tiptoed around this elephant in the room, but after Kondou firmly hit a breaking point with it this week, I’m intrigued to see how their dynamic will shift.

And for all those reasons, I’m greatly enjoying After The Rain as a character study, but it pushes all the right buttons to keep it enjoyable as a “let’s just check in on these folks again” slice-of-life too. Episode four, where Garden chef Kase essentially blackmails Akira into going on a date with him, was the one exception, a tonal outlier that raked up drama seemingly for the sake of it. It’s mostly been ignored since, and that’s nice, but it proves just how careful a line the show needs to tread in order to remain tasteful.

What I’m not worried about is the series’ production. Not only does the art look gorgeous, it might be the prettiest shoujo series I’ve seen in recent memory. Its direction is superb as well, with careful shot composition and a beautiful score constantly elevating already-emotionally charged moments. After The Rain was and continues to be a dark horse. My final verdict will rely almost entirely on how it comes to a close, but so far, the missteps have been few and far between and there’s a ton going in its favor.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

THE ANCIENT MAGUS’ BRIDE (MAHOUTSUKAI NO YOME)


Yatahaze:
Gonna level with you, I’m at that point where The Ancient Magus’ Bride just isn’t doing much for me anymore. Over the past two months, parts of individual episodes have piqued my interest, but it’s rarely come together for a cohesive, impressive experience I can get excited about.

I could nitpick the show to death, but I think a lot of my gripes ultimately stem from the adaptation’s pacing. Most of its episodes undergo multiple jarring digressions that murder any sense of flow or thematic focus, as if the scriptwriters just took the source material, formatted it to fit the anime’s 2-cour timeslot, and simply dissected each into 24-minute chunks with minimal regard to each episode’s contents. When I watch Magus’ Bride, I rarely feel like I’m getting a full tale per sitting—it’s more like trying to read a book while getting interrupted and having to stop in the middle of each chapter instead of a natural cut-off point. For later marathoners, I imagine that will be less of a problem and maybe even a benefit, but for weekly viewers, it makes it difficult to walk away each time fulfilled.

That in turn affects just how much of the drama actually lands. It’s no surprise that the series’ finest episodes were those that covered less ground more thoroughly: the Leannán Sídhe’s final days with Joel and the mini-arc where a local boy gets kidnapped and his sister gets Chise to help were fairly concise and more emotionally resonant as a result. When Magus’ Bride slows down to focus on just Chise, Elias, and how their relationship is growing, it’s generally for the better too. Most of the show’s overarching weight stems from the two of them learning to interpret what the other is feeling and trying to distance themselves from their selfish tendencies.

The backbone of all that is very strong, and I get why people are enjoying Magus’ Bride on paper. But between the constant interruptions and dry dialogue, the execution is really lacking. The magical elements and worldbuilding details that were once beautiful and actually magical have only felt less so over time. Instead of wowing or whisking away the viewer like they did at first, they more often disrupt concrete developments in the narrative, further making the series feel like it’s riddled by some sort of attention span problem.

Weak rhythm is one thing, but we’re now through 5 out of 6 months’ worth of Magus’ Bride and, soundtrack aside, the series has rarely been outstanding on the artistic front. Its direction is tame, its action bits range from average to downright sloppy, and its character animation is limp, sucking life out of vital scenes. With After The Rain on Studio Wit’s plate as well this season, the disparity in quality is even more noticeable. I’ve made it this far with The Ancient Magus’ Bride and I might as well finish it and throw together some final thoughts on its messages, but I’ll be honest: it’s constantly felt like the shadow of the show it could’ve been, and that’s made it really hard to appreciate the soul buried within it.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 20 episodes.

CARDCAPTOR SAKURA: CLEAR CARD ARC (CLEAR CARD-HEN)


Harubruh:
Despite falling four weeks behind on this at one point, Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Arc is making it plenty easy for me to catch right back up. I’m definitely enjoying watching this as much as I enjoyed the original at this point!

It took a few episodes for Clear Card Arc to really gain some traction, but it literally took off during Sakura’s pursuit of the Flight card in the seventh episode. It was pretty fun to see a rather playful card for a change of pace compared to a battle like most of the card captures have been thus far. Finally actively throwing Syaoran back into the mix also helped pick up the pace, even if him, Yue, and Kero aren’t of much help in pursuing the new Clear Cards.

Kudos go out to the folks at Madhouse, who’ve maintained an astonishing level of polish up to Clear Card Arc’s eighth episode. They’ve really hit one out of the park with balancing the new with the nostalgic for this, with me especially enjoying the heavy doses of Yamazaki’s goofy stories. Some of Madhouse’s productions of late had me concerned, but I guess I really shouldn’t have had to worry about them doing a bang up job on the sequel to the series key to their success.

I’m still as mystified as Sakura as to the who the veiled person appearing in her dreams is, and their connection to the Clear Cards, especially with the recently revealed connection to the new transfer student Akiho. I’m also wondering what will happen with Syaoran, as he’s been shown to be having his own issues that he’s keeping secret from Sakura and Tomoyo.

Yes, you bet your ass I’m staying tuned for more of Sakura and the gang.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

CITRUS


Yatahaze:
Hey, so you know how Citrus is basically unadulterated lesbian step-sister smut?

It’s more than that, actually.

Don’t get me wrong, at least once an episode, Citrus is basically just unadulterated lesbian step-sister smut. I won’t deny that. But it’s used all that abrupt kissing and pent-up teenage frustration as a natural (if indisputably ridiculous) extension of its main cast’s personalities and concerns.

Hear me out. I first hopped on the Citrus train expecting the show to be a wreck I could laugh at, borderline porn with a hackneyed “plot” as filler between sexual encounters. Even though almost every episode of Citrus has still been too outwardly scandalous to praise on conventional terms, it’s just so goddamn entertaining, and not necessarily in a “so bad it’s good” way. Yes, Citrus can get lewd and jump from 0 to 100 in a millisecond, but there’s a passionate heart within it that asks its audience to empathize with Mei’s self-internalized pressures, Yuzu’s bumbling confusion, and how the two keep colliding in the worst possible ways. For its overblown premise, the series is doing an unexpectedly capable job at building up its two mains, one a stressed, serious workaholic who doesn’t know how to healthily vent, the other a lovable dorky gyaru who means well but has shit constantly go wrong for her. I’ve become genuinely invested in how Mei and Yuzu interact, and I look forward to the two of them guiding each other to a better place in their lives, regardless of whether that’s done platonically or romantically.

But obviously it’s not all serious, either. Citrus’ brand of comedy doubles down on one-upmanship and sudden twists, taking events that should be serious and making them afterthoughts just as it refuses to trim its narrative fat. The Aiharas’ grandpa collapsing? Shrugged off so Yuzu can get back into the academy. Mei’s father coming back home? She tries avoiding him until he leaves with barely a moment’s notice again. Ready to see the step-siblings be honest with one another? Too bad, here’s a middle-school internet troll incarnate. I should expect nothing less at this point, but the series continues blazing past my expectations, going wherever I don’t think it will.

So yeah, Citrus occupies that small middle slice on a Venn Diagram of “total trash” and “good, actually.” I’m unironically loving it more and more by the week. Can’t say I expect anyone else to share that view, but Passione gave us the lemons, and I’m not wasting the opportunity to make lemonade.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

DAGASHI KASHI 2


Harubruh:
Oh hey, I’ve picked up Dagashi Kashi 2 where Yata left off.

Just like when the first season aired, I’m also enjoying it a tad more this time than he did, but this sequel is actually a more enjoyable show overall.

I was a tad disappointed at first when I heard the new season was going to have its run time cut in half, but it becomes evident extremely quick that this was a decision for the better. Dagashi Kashi 2 has a quicker (read: much better) tempo to it than its predecessor. The series is still mostly about candy over the characters, so it does remain something of a niche watch, but as Yata mentioned in the previous writeup, if you liked the original, you’ll probably like this more.

With a new studio at the helm of the second season in Tezuka Productions, the characters got new designs, and the look of the sequel feels far more faithful to the style of the original comic than Feel’s visuals and designs for the original. It’s the opposite to what happened with Oregairu, sort of. There have also been quite a few moments in the second season where this show has been downright beautiful, most notably toward the end of the fourth episode.

Dagashi Kashi 2 has been plenty enjoyable, especially after introducing Hajime Owari and Yutaka Beni right on the heels of Hotaru’s sudden disappearance. This candy show is stupidly silly and I can’t help but love it for that.
Current score: 6.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

DARLING IN THE FRANXX


Yatahaze:
Darling in the FranXX sure is a thing that exists.

That probably seems obvious enough, but look, FranXX discourse is charged. Most people seem to either be of the opinion that it’s laughably heteronormative and up to nothing original or that it’s just biding its time and good, actually. While I’m more inclined to agree with the latter perspective, I don’t wholly agree with either side in this tiresome debate. FranXX is…just there, the token mech offering in a season dominated by its polar opposite genre space. As such, it’s a breath of, well, not “fresh” but different air every week, and I’m generally enjoying that.

Cool heads prevailing aren’t what you want to see though, right? FranXX drags around a whirlwind of hot takes, and in comparison I’m but a rickety air conditioner. It’s really hard to make bold predictions when so little has been revealed to us. I don’t expect a 2-cour series like this to give us all the details this early on, but a near-exclusive focus on these kids through how they see the world really isn’t doing any favors for the worldbuilding, something this show feels primed to thrive on, with its biodome cities, militaristic societal order and all. It could truly just be that FranXX is biding its time, but as the weeks pass, I’ve grown increasingly less certain that it knows what it’s doing by ignoring looking through things at a wider scope. If the show is indeed going to question that social order, it’d be a huge disservice to only see its effects on this micro level, one that, as pointed out several times, isn’t even all that representative of most of this world’s young pilots.

As for the pilots themselves, this main batch is a well-balanced and entertaining crew, but they’re not written as equals. Team captain Ichigo is the character I’m most intrigued by: she has obvious feelings for Hiro that often conflict with her commands, and her tense relationship with 002 has threatened on multiple occasions to wear the kids down while they’re fighting. She and her partner still get along fine (bless Goro, he’s so sweet), but as a leader, she seems to overanalyze and stand down too much. Faults as those are, there really isn’t a better prospective captain; the other teams are either actively dysfunctional (Ikuno and Mitsuru), mostly played for comic relief (Zorome and Miku) or completely forgettable (Futoshi and Kokoro). Much like the story itself, there seems to be more to Hiro and 002’s pasts than meets the eye, but until those explanations come, they’re pretty blank slates, more defined by their relationship to one another than their own personalities.

If you don’t mind those easy-to-pigeonhole traits (and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that—in this show’s case, it’s been tolerable), FranXX probably hasn’t run out of appeal for you yet. But again, I understand the impatience some people are having, and upon reflection, I’m more underwhelmed than I am impressed. FranXX isn’t exactly a visual masterpiece, but I think it speaks volumes just how much I’m drawn into the show as I’m actively watching it. That enthusiasm fluctuates and fades with time, but until the series’ momentum picks up or dies off for good, I can’t give too impassioned a verdict on it either way. FranXX is…FranXX, and that’s alright…for now.
Current score: 7/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

DEATH MARCH TO THE PARALLEL WORLD RHAPSODY (DEATH MARCH KARA HAJIMARU ISEKAI KYOUSOUKYOKU)

Harubruh:
Not even watching Death March in a drunken stupor was enough to redeem this show’s strange-ass slavery fetish for me. I lasted as far into the storyline watching the anime as I did reading the manga, which wasn’t far at all. Death March’s OP and ED are all you should probably see, and avoid the fuck out of the rest of it.

This is near the lowest the low tier of writing can get. Do better.
Dropped after 3 episodes.
Final score: 2.5/10

HOW TO KEEP A MUMMY (MIIRA NO KAIKATA)

Harubruh:
Alas, here’s another decent popcorn show that got dropped through no fault of its own. Blame this season’s stacked lineup pushing this one on the bubble along with the unfortunate timing of Moe Mummy’s release on Thursdays for it being pushed off of my watchlist.

Moe Mummy was still a super cute ride while I could watch it, and I wish I could use my Saturdays or Sundays to catch up on it, but I’m having to prioritize better shows, many of which are dropping during the weekend this season.

I’d certainly hope to catch up on this one day, Mii was too damned adorable.
Dropped after 3 episodes.
Final score: 6/10

KARAKAI JOUZU NO TAKAGI-SAN


Yatahaze:
Of the nine shows I stuck with this season, I was least confident about Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san’s ability to last the long haul. There are three tiers of gag comedies: ones whose skits land virtually all the time, ones whose skits never quite land as intended, and those which start out promising but get old quick.

My worries that Takagi would end up as one of those false starts proved misguided, though. Since its earliest episodes, the series has only gotten funnier. Not by a drastic degree—this is a show that seems to value consistency over highlights—but as the setting gradually expands outside the classroom and the side characters get both their own skits in the limelight and ones where they interact with the leads, Takagi gets less predictable by the bit, even if the punchline is usually the same.

I’m especially enjoying how the series plays with gender roles. Most of why Nishikata feels hesitant to retaliate or make the seemingly obvious response in any given situation is because he’s acutely aware how “bad” it will look if he, as a male, looks too interested in Takagi. Of course, because he’s a boy on the verge of puberty, he doesn’t really understand that Takagi isn’t bothered by him, and she abuses his narrow mindset to come out on top in all their bets and contests. There’s also the matter that boys of that age aren’t usually comfortable with the idea of “romance.” At some point, we grow up and learn how to connect with people, but the age frame for these characters is young enough for them to not totally “get it” yet. Nishikata’s embarrassment isn’t all that witty from a storytelling standpoint, but it speaks too true to the cringy awkwardness that defines tweenhood to be ignored. To say that at one point I would’ve related to Nishikata is an understatement. And it’s precisely because I’ve been there, done that, and realized how arbitrary the constructs we self-enforce are that I also can’t help but laugh at all the misfortune he invites upon himself.

In a way, I almost feel worse for Takagi—she’s more emotionally secure and daring, and she’s clearly making the right moves to get closer to Nishikata, but the kid’s just so nervous he can’t think straight in any situation involving her. Which is to say that if you’re like me, you’re probably shipping the two of them hard. Thankfully, so is the show. I’ve heard about the manga epilogue, so I know how it all ends, and though I doubt the anime adaptation will timeskip that far ahead, it’s pretty obvious to everyone except Nishikata himself that Takagi has gone from a simple classmate to a friend to something more than that. Takagi’s teasing remains a great dose of fun each week, but so are the more earnest moments she and Nishikata share in between. Even if it’s far from the most ambitious or noteworthy comedy out there, Takagi sure knows how to satisfy.
Current score: 7.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

Harubruh:
If one were to put me on the spot asking me, “Hey *insertrealnamehere*, what’s your favorite anime airing right now”, Takagi-san will likely be the first name that comes to my mind. Yes, even before the wonderful Yuru Camp.

Oh wait, that situation actually happened to me at Starbucks a couple of nights ago!

I am very thoroughly enjoying Teasing Master Takagi-san for a number of reasons. First: It was practically a given that I would enjoy a skit-based comedy in a school setting; some of my very favorite shows over the years have followed this formula, for example, Nichibros. I get a very similar vibe to it with Takagi-san, only y’know, just with a girl teasing a boy she likes. We don’t have enough shows where the girl is the one making the boy all squeaky and flustered.

Secondly, I love Takagi-san’s consistency in both visual style and delivery. Sure, this show won’t blow anyone off of their feet with sakuga or score, or any other technical bits for that matter, but Shin-ei Animation has done a stand-up job here. It really does seem only natural that the folks who turned out the sublime short comedy My Neighbor Seki would nail something like this. Yuki Kaji and Rie Takahashi ace their roles as Nishikata and Takagi-san respectively, with their voice acting helping to really nail down the hardcore teasing.

Lastly, Souichirou Yamamoto, the original creator of Takagi-san and the associated story Ashita wa Doyoubi, also adapted as part of this anime three classmates of our main pair, and it really seems like he has a real knack for this slice of life stuff. Yamamoto’s characters feel believable and down-to-earth, yet are given some fun personality quirks, most prominently Nishikata’s fandom of the popular in-show shoujo series 100% Unrequited Love.

On that note, don’t be ashamed to enjoy a shoujo manga or anime, guys. It’s good stuff! Go out there and find your 100% Unrequited Love.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

LAID-BACK CAMP (YURU CAMP△)


Yatahaze:
It may not be the most impressive show of the season, but Laid-Back Camp is easily the one I most look forward to each week. All my early minor gripes (the educational narrations, the side characters feeling one-note, etc.) were remedied or rendered irrelevant as the weeks went on. Its comedy has felt wittier and more diverse and its comfortable, soothing tone is unrelenting. I haven’t seen an iyashikei show this charming since Flying Witch, and I haven’t seen a “realistic” one of this nature since…I honestly can’t recall when.

It helps that its scenery feels simultaneously realistic and expressive. We spend a lot of time outdoors with these folks, and stuff like exams and jobs only peek through in the margins. Camp is just as much about its advertised activity as it is a lovely character piece, and while these characters don’t undergo any massive changes or reach any deep, psychological epiphanies, they don’t need to. They’re just cheerful, stable high-schoolers who like spending their free time outside with each other. Rin “grows” a bit in the sense that she accepts Nadeshiko’s company sometimes instead of insisting upon only camping solo, but the show doesn’t try to get the two to cling to each other.

And that might be my favorite aspect of Camp: each of its main characters share a love of camping and enjoy one another, but they’re not defined by simple archetypes, nor are they only depicted attached at the hip. They’re all their own people, and the series allows them to occupy the screen alone as well as in groups, in which their natural reactions to a multitude of situations are entertaining enough, not forced to fill gag roles or oversell jokes. Just as in real life, sometimes the punchlines don’t even exist, and frankly I’m really impressed with how smoothly Laid-Back Camp portrays that. The dialogue knows when to go full-steam ahead and when to ease up, and as a result, the show maintains full control over its aptly-described laid-back tone.

This past week’s episode was a bit subpar on the visual front (perhaps outsourced?), but otherwise, Laid-Back Camp is one of the most consistent shows of the season and a standout title for its genre. With only a month to go, I have no reason to assume it won’t remain so.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.

MARCH COMES IN LIKE A LION 2ND SEASON (3-GATSU NO LION 2ND SEASON)


Yatahaze:
Due to the Olympics, it’s been 3 weeks since any March Comes In Like a Lion aired, and that’s more than enough time for my memory to become hazy. Or rather, it would be, but holy shit, what a run of episodes it most recently had. I was a little lukewarm on this second season when it first came out of the gates, but for the month or so between the start of the cour and this hiatus, March whipped out two franchise highlights with the climax to the bullying arc and the aftermath of a match between Rei and Meijin Souya.

Unable to tolerate any more passive-aggressive cruelty, Hina finally took her stand and proved herself braver than everyone around her. Her jittery, unhelpful homeroom teacher caved under the pressure and blamed the whole class for inflicting years of stress on her before taking her leave. In her place, a new instructor wasn’t going to abide by any of the perpetrators’ behavior. Parent-teacher conferences, punishments, whatever had to be done, it would be.

March emphasizes time and time again how nobody can go through harsh circumstances alone, and while Hina had people should could cry to at home, she didn’t have a solution until this intervention. Ultimately, a complete overhaul of the class’ atmosphere via Kokubu was a blessing: he’d seen this before and recognized the problem had to be attacked at its root, something that the previous teacher, Hina’s family, and Rei simply couldn’t do.

But Rei didn’t do “nothing” for her. In his rush to be a savior, he didn’t realize that it’s okay for him to not always be the knight in shining armor. Letting Hina know she wasn’t alone was enough. Physically keeping her company while on her school trip was above and beyond his own call of duty. And while it’s tough to call any of what transpired in this arc “happy,” the pay-off of Hina re-establishing contact with Chiho was very well-earned and Rei started to understand that not solving everyone’s problems isn’t something to feel guilty about. Sometimes it’s just not in a person’s abilities. This bullying arc was intense—maybe the most intense March has ever been for a character other than Rei. Episodes 12 and 13 (the former especially) will go down as standouts just not within the franchise, but of the whole year in anime.

Oh, and there was still another arc’s worth of material since then too. Rei’s match with Meijin Souya wasn’t necessarily impressive for its shogi elements—if there’s anything I’ve learned regarding the show’s matches, it’s that the odds-on favorite to win almost always does—but as a means of bringing Rei and Souya closer together as characters, it was crucial. The two had been compared as young prodigies ever since Souya’s introduction, but I never felt like that association was an informed one, in part because we knew so much about the reasons Rei shielded himself and so little for why Souya did.

However, the wait was worth it. If there’s anything else March is consistent about, it’s stressing how even the most mythic, powerful individuals among us have their own troubles to deal with, and Souya is no exception. Some of the details are still fuzzy since this arc cut out at a weird point, but from what I’ve inferred, Souya has some sort of hearing impairment that worsens at odd intervals and he doesn’t want it to become known to his competitors, so he secludes himself voluntarily and seems aloof not out of smugness but out of genuine ignorance to what’s going on around him. Forced to interact with Rei when weather impedes their travel home and they have no other connections, the two don’t exactly grow close, but each gains a truer understanding of the other’s character.

As always, the direction heightened every scene and the oppressive atmosphere under the typhoon made for a great backdrop for Rei to reflect in. Maybe too well, since he has a hard time snapping out of it once he returns home. Now he’s got an insatiable itch to study up on Souya’s records and learn all he can from the mastermind whose footsteps he’s supposedly walking in. Nikaidou’s out of the hospital too, and things are generally looking up again for March. Its weaker material tends to come out of those happy-go-lucky bits, but at this point, I’ll take anything. It’s been too long. I’m glad you’ll be back this weekend, March. I’ve missed you.
Current score: 8.5/10
Still watching after 16 episodes.

THE RYUO’S WORK IS NEVER DONE! (RYUOH NO OSHIGOTO!)

Harubruh:
Don’t you worry, guys, I may have dropped Death March and Moe Mummy, but I still have to get my quota of garbage in this season somehow. I haven’t dropped Ryuoh, but I’m 4 episodes behind on it as of the date this will be publish. Expect regular service for The Ryuoh’s Work is Never Done to resume in the Final Impressions writeup at the end of this season.

VIOLET EVERGARDEN


Yatahaze:
As I probably knew would happen deep down, Violet Evergarden hasn’t fully delivered on its hype. Virtually no show does. I just wasn’t expecting it to be so visibly divisive among those watching it.

Let’s get one thing out of the way real quick, though: Evergarden still looks absolutely gorgeous. On a purely technical level, it’s easily the highlight of the season and a complete marvel to absorb every week. It’s less pronounced than in the studio’s other works, but Evergarden still heavily rides on body language and minute character animation, and for a series principally about learning how to understand and interpret feelings, anything less would be a let down. Episodes storyboarded by renowned Kyoto Animation figures like Naoko Yamada and Yasuhiro Takemoto certainly don’t hurt either. There really was no better studio for this material to end up at.

But it’s not flawless, and it’s definitely not for everyone. I was excited to see more around Hodgins’ Auto Memory Doll Service early on, but the staff there were swiftly superseded in importance to episodic one-off characters as Violet was assigned requests and traveled out of the city to various short-term destinations. These individual episodes are great, especially those that took place with minimal other recurring characters. Whether she’s assisting playwrights at rock bottom, outcasts astray in academia, or child royalty, Violet’s found a way to connect with her clients each week and they in turn help her become more self-aware of her actions and behavior. Most of the richer character development occurs off-screen in timeskips between episodes, but while I found that bothersome at first, now that I’ve just accepted it as a given, I’m wholeheartedly enjoying the rest of the content.

Some people complained that Violet’s personality was too dry, lifeless, or unoriginal to empathize with, and while I personally didn’t mind those traits for the purpose of her character, I’d be lying if I said I was always eager for Evergarden or particularly passionate about it. Thankfully, that’s less and less the case as the weeks go on. Violet—like Hodgins predicted—has begun to realize her own sense of self, presenting a whole new array of opportunities as the show begins its second half. Not to turn away anyone who interpreted her stoic demeanor as representative of autism, but I just don’t believe that was the show’s goal. It had been implied from the start that she would become more talkative, self-reliant, and “human” over the course of the show. The one thing I’m unsure about is how exactly the series will delve into Violet’s past and make clear why specifically she was the way she was. There’s a ton of ambiguity there still, and while alternate interpretations can co-exist with the show’s endgame, I just have a hunch that’s not what Evergarden is leading to.

Now that Violet is aware of Gilbert’s death, albeit in denial, the series’ trajectory has shifted a bit and I anticipate we’ll see a bit more of the main cast again. Given how strong it had been up until now with anime-original, episodic adventures, this may constitute a turning point for the better or worse. All I know is the potential’s still there, and I’m crossing my fingers it can continue to deliver.
Current score: 8/10
Still watching after 7 episodes.

ZOKU TOUKEN RANBU: HANAMARU


Harubruh:
Time for the “Touken” Harubruh seasonal prettyboy show report!

Not a whole lot has changed with Zoku Hanamaru, it’s largely stayed the course since my last writeup, what with introducing a couple new swordboys every week. At this point, the cast is so friggin’ massive that I’m starting to lose track of the characters being introduced, and it’s not helping that most of the new guys have completely disappeared after their almost literal 15 minutes of fame. I was at the very least hoping that fellow alcohol enthusiast Fudou Yukimitsu would stick around, but sadly, he’s pretty much vanished.

Fortunately, Zoku Hanamaru has kept the spotlight mostly around Kashuu Kiyomitsu, who is tasked with showing the new swordboys of the week around the Citadel as he waits for his companion Yamatonokami Yasusada to return from his journey. Keeping what bit of narrative there is in Zoku Hanamaru mostly around him has allowed the show to keep a slight bit of focus, with his frustration over being skipped for combat duty making for a strong showing from him and the loner Yamanbagiri in the fifth episode.

I may be enjoying this one a tad less than the original Hanamaru at this point, but I’m too far down this path to quit now, so I might as well stick it out. Zoku Hanamaru has been adequate entertainment so far, and I suppose that’s all I was asking from it to begin with.
Current score: 6/10
Still watching after 8 episodes.


And that’s all this time! As always, we hope you enjoyed this batch of thoughts, and if you have anything to add, give us a shout in the comments below or over on Twitter (see sidebar). If all goes well, next month’s Final Thoughts article will be a bit longer: Haru’s got more catching up to do and Yata’s planning to finally get around to Devilman Crybaby, so look forward to that! Until then, this has been For Great Justice. Thanks for reading and we hope to enjoy your continued support.

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2 comments

  1. I think you hit on something with MahoYome feeling like a book that you’re reading but being constantly interrupted. March feels like this too, especially with its digressions. I’m all but going to hold them until I can marathon

    Like

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