And so week 4 comes to a close. At least, my arbitrary definition of what constistutes week 4. Some shows improved while others faltered, but not enough to shake up the rankings much. Usually by this point in the season it’s pretty clear if a show is going to be good, watchable or bad, but this season anything can happen and in relative terms everything is still pretty close together (except for Island, which I’m watching because it’s so bad).
1. Angolmois – Genkou Kassenki (3)
The only thing keeping Angolmois from being solidly good are the action scenes. And the ugly filter, but at least I can ignore that pretty easily. We start off with another large battle, and it’s painful how static the action is. The context of the battle is fine. The Mongol vanguard chased the survivors of last week’s slaughter too far, and Kuchii reckons they have a chance if they turn around and catch the enemy by surprise. But then the battle begins and it’s hard to tell what’s going on beyond “Kuchii and his crew are really skilled warriors”. It looks like… well, it looks like a bunch of manga panels that someone colored and panned over a bit. Enemy soldiers just stand there watching the battle. Yeah it’s hard adapting a large-scale battle from a manga, but if you have nothing to add then what’s even the point of animating it?
But aside from that it’s still the best thing I’m watching this season. The dynamic between the characters is good, and the way they’re fighting back against a stronger foe is actually plausible (and not “we have to do this extremely obvious thing that the enemy doesn’t see coming because they’re idiots”). I’m certain that Angolmois will stay near the top for the reason of the season.
2. Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger (3)
It’s backstory time! As children, Yuliy and his brother Mikhail were living in a small village, presumably in Russia. At least, everyone has Russian names. But the village is literally called “Dogville”, in English. Uhm, okay? At this point, the hints are so blatant that I think I’d be more disappointed if they do turn out to be werewolves than if they don’t.
The people of the village used to be the keepers of some Macguffin called “Sirius’ Arc”, but now it’s gone and Dogville is in decline. Whatever it is, the vampires are also after it, and lay waste to the village. Guess they didn’t know the Arc was already gone. Whoops, sorry about the mess! Mikhail makes a last stand against the vampires to let Yuliy escape, and so all this time Yuliy assumed his brother was dead. But as we already found out last week, Mikhail was turned into a vampire instead. This understandably leaves Yuliy conflicted. He’s dedicated himself to exterminating the vampires, but when he saw his brother again his resolve started to waver. Deep inside he’d rather have his brother back as a vampire than not at all, and he’s not happy about that.
This episode was exactly what the show needed at this point. The main characters were in sore need of some depth, and this episode helped me actually care about Yuliy the gloomy loner. I’m sure the rest of the cast will get similar treatment at some point.
Sirius the Jaegar seems to be the only show this season that’s actually improving. I was on the fence after the first episode, but this one was quite solid. Just like most of the show, it wasn’t exactly original but it was done well. Even if the show doesn’t turn out to be anything special, it’s at least entertaining to watch. Unlike…
3. Banana Fish (4)
I’m getting real tired of all the edge. In episode 4 we get another two attempted rapes and one rape threat. And also Arthur orders his guys to shoot a nurse just because he caaaaan. Do you hate these bad guys yet, or do they have to set an orphanage on fire too? I get that it’s trying to show the characters live in a climate of constant violence, but by overdoing it it’s coming across as cheap. Especially since none of these characters have any depth. They’re all just violent rapists who want to hurt you because that’s life.
If that aspect doesn’t bother you the show’s all right. But it’s making it kind of unenjoyable to watch. And at the end of the day, it’s just entertainment. Banana Fish is unlikely to give me new insights into the human condition.
Anyway, Ibe wants Eiji to go back home so he doesn’t get abducted and nearly killed a third time. Seems fair enough, but Eiji freels like he needs to do something. Who does he think he is, the protagonist? Seriously though, he’s just some kid. He doesn’t even have any particular skills or knowledge that would be of any help to Ash. All he had to do last episode was deliver a message, and even that ended poorly. And it’s not like he and Ash have had such a long history together. To me, Eiji is the weakest part of the story right now. I can sympathize with Ash and Max, but Eiji is just rushing into danger for no good reason.
Another thing I’m not really feeling is the central plot. It’s just not interesting at all. What is Banana Fish? You might have thought it was the name of the drug, but it turns out it may be the name of the man who made it. Okay, but who cares? Everyone is talking about Banana Fish like it’s some great mystery, but I don’t really give a shit. So far it’s little more than a plot device to get Ash into trouble.
4. Hanebad! (4)
Some haughty girl with twintails shows up demanding a match against Ayano and wipes the court with her. Hold on, am I watching a repeat of last week?
I wanted to like this episode more than I did because the look and feel of the show are still good, but I found myself getting annoyed at several points. This time the challenger is Connie, the Danish champion who was (is?) being coached by Ayano’s mom. She wants to crush Ayano because… uhh, we don’t know yet. Probably to prove she’s superior to her coach’s own daughter. But Connie’s a professional who’s said to have won multiple world championships, and she’s going through all this effort to beat an amateur who’s just playing at her school club? Isn’t that just a little pathetic? Either way I’m getting tired of all these superbitches showing up just to cause drama. At least when Nagisa was stirring up shit, we were given the opportunity to see things from her side so we were given at least some reason to sympathize with her. With both Kaoroku and Connie we have no idea who they are and why they’re acting that way.
Speaking of drama, there’s also some hints about tension between Yu and Sora, a character I didn’t even know was in the club until this episode. I don’t know why it’s inserted into this part of the story, because there’s otherwise little focus on her and we know nothing about her. Please, if you want drama, get in line and wait your turn.
I’m hoping this is just a temporary hiccup and we’re not getting suffocated by this bullshit for the rest of the show.
5. Planet With (3)
Once again we get a little more information about the world, but once again my overall reaction is “eh”. Turns out Soya is from another planet, which was destroyed due to the same power that the paladins are now wielding, and Sensei feels guilty about being unable to stop it. I guess that explains the setting, but so far it’s also not particularly interesting. It suggests that Soya’s anger is directed purely at the power itself, and doesn’t have anything to do with the paladins directly. Eh.
There’s nothing wrong with the concept itself. I can see the potential in this three-way clash between humans and the two alien factions. But so far that potential is not being realized. The humans don’t seem to know anything about the aliens and what they want, and the ‘enemy’ aliens mostly just appear as monsters-of-the-week. The strange monster designs are kinda neat, but they just sort of… float around, so that feels like a waste too.
Overall, everything is just sort of the same as it was the previous two episodes. The premise is underdeveloped, and the characters are fine but not particularly compelling. I keep feeling like the show is one episode away from really getting going, but at some point it’s going to be too late.
6. Revue Starlight (3)
This was a bit better than the last two episodes. At least I stopped feeling like I was watching a repeat of every girls-high-school-light-comedy anime of the past decade. Hikari’s bullshit still annoys me, and Karen’s roommate sucks, but everyone else is fine, I guess.
And there’s the problem. At the end of the day, I’m just not invested in this at all. Yeah I get what the battles are supposed to represent, but it feels superficial, and there’s not enough tension between the characters for me to care. The result is a nicely directed and animated action scene that bores me. I’m sure it’s still building up to the real drama, but I don’t know if I have the patience for that.
7. Asobi Asobase (3)
Meh. I guess it was only funny by accident. Dropped.
8. Island (4)
Island, on the other hand, is the best comedy of the season. After investigating a little, this episode turns out to be an anime-original interpretation of Karen’s arc, but wow what a mess it is. It’s finally time for Karen’s wedding. Wait, what? Apparently it was mentioned off-handedly before and I missed it, but even then just jumping into a major event like that with virtually no build-up is already weird. But it gets a lot weirder.
Setsuna crashes the wedding to run off with her, but apparently everyone was already planning for this, including her brother and fiancee. What’s the point, then? Why didn’t they just send her off before the wedding? As we’ll see later, they already knew she was going to come back. But instead we have sit through the whole wedding scene for no real reason.
Setsuna joins Karen on her journey off the island. I originally thought Karen was planning on leaving for good and going to live in the city, so why did he come with her? Maybe I’m misremembering, but it turns out not to matter anyway, because her mom died a year ago. Everyone already knew this (her brother gave her a map pointing to the grave). Are you telling me her family hid her mother’s death from her for a year? While she was making plans and getting excited about meeting her? Why??? So we could have this episode, I guess.
We meet an assistant of Karen’s mother, who lets slip that her mother was working on some mysterious research on ancient texts, but catches herself and tells them she’s not allowed to talk about it. Wow, that’s not suspicious at all. I’m sure the Karen will immediately demand to know more about what her mother was up to. No? It just cuts away and is never mentioned again? Okay.
Another thing worth mentioning is that Karen’s mom wrote novels under a pseudonym. Karen had one of her books all this time without knowing who its real author was. She mentions that she likes a particular line that goes “There’s a secret in this world”. The assistant then later, independently, brings up that line and says it’s ‘famous’. Wow, what an incredible piece of prose. There’s a secret in this world? I would never have considered such a thing.
Just last week, I was saying that Karen’s issues seemed pretty plain and probably wouldn’t make for an entertaining arc. Boy was I wrong.