Oregairu Zoku 2
Did I mention how much I loved the opening by Yanagi Nagi? Well I did now, its so catchy and the lyrics fit with the problems Hachiman faces. As for the actual content of the episode this week, it was phenomenal. Last week with Oregairu’s first episode there was a lot of talk about group dynamics and maintaining the status quo, I mentioned that it not only applied to Hayama’s group, but also to the Volunteering club too. This fact was emphasized again with the eating scene. The awed expressions of Yui and Yukinon as Hachiman nonchalantly eats together with them was heartwarming to watch. Why does Hachiman always have to get in the way of his own happiness.
Hachiman himself fears losing his relationships with Yukinon and Yui even though he admits otherwise. This episode played on that fact and used it to touch on Hachiman’s own cynicism. What truly made these scenes work is the fact that every character in Oregairu is smart. Excluding the gag characters, Totsuka and Zaimokuza, everyone is painfully aware of the situation. Hachiman in particular understands the consequences of his actions all too well. He knows that Hayama and Ebina are manipulating him, and that his actions are going to agitate some problems in his own group. Despite realizing that, Hachiman still confesses to Ebina to save Hayama’s group dynamic at their request. In the end, Hachiman is the selfish one, since he knows it hurts Yui and Yukinon to do so. The only reason that Hachiman feels that acceptable to do these things, is because he feels so estranged from society that he believes he is the bad guy. Thank god Yui is here to knock some sense into him.
Yui’s request to Hachiman to stop these shenanigans put me to tears. There are some obvious reasons such as her own feelings for him, but I think what it really comes down to is Hachiman making his friends watch him suffer. In the end the one thing Hachiman truly wanted to keep was lost, all for some people that don’t even care for him that much. Yui is trying to help him but Yukinon is clearly upset by how Hachiman treats himself. Both Yui and Yukinon know that Hachiman is capable of being more true to himself, and Oregairu has showcased it so many times. All that’s left is for Hachiman to realize it himself.
Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works 14
As always, I am doing my episodic posts on Unlimited Blade Works. This week’s episode focused on some of the weaker characters with Caster and Illya’s servants taking the forefront. The purpose of it was to cause the audience to empathize with Caster while building tension for the next episode. I didn’t particularly care for Medea’s story, and the lack of action left me looking for more.
I had some qualms with this episode but most of them are taken care of by the fact that the show doesn’t take itself very seriously. My favorite girl of the series so far is Chitoge and to see her reduced to a girl just pining for a boy’s attention annoyed me. It’s not healthy to crave someone else attention to that degree. But like I said earlier, the whimsical nature of Nisekoi debunks any negative messages it may be sending. At its core Nisekoi is just a fun harem, and it’s quite good at being that.
Though the comedy can be a bit repetitive at times the visuals accompanying it really sell the jokes and make me laugh. It helps that the show just oozes shaft’s style, with many scenes reminding me of Senjougahara’s faces. It was as if I was watching shaft’s April fools joke nisekoimonogatari. This visual style that Shaft has adopted entertains me endlessly even though I know it is formulaic at this point. The bright colors and camera angles accentuate the beautiful character designs creating a feast for the eyes. As expected the girls are still ridiculously cute and play to our fantasies but there is nothing wrong with watching something a little self-indulgent every once and awhile.
Arslan Senki 2
This episode of Arslan Senki covered all the bases for a typical warring countries setting. We have the powerful king leading the nation, the naive but pure prince, and their loyal retainers that follow them. The prince’s story so far has been so similar to other fantasy settings and I have yet to find why I should like Arslan Senki more than these other stories. Arslan Senki’s second episode followed the formula so strictly that there wasn’t any tension. I knew that Arslan would be exposed to the horrors of war. I knew Kharlan was going to be the one that betrayed Pars. And I knew Daryun was going to come save the prince. All the foreshadowing for a betrayal backfired because it was obvious from the character designs who it would be. The lack of flashy style and overall animation detail in Kharlan’s character led me to believe that he was less important than the other generals and was going to be the traitor. The lack of surprise factor within the show does not condemn an episode to mediocrity, but even the fight scenes were quite mundane. The computer graphics soldier are getting more noticeable and the action doesn’t portray the intensity of war well. Arslan Senki has yet to really hook me into their world, and I am just counting the episodes until it does. Hopefully I won’t get too bored of it before that happens.
The Vanishing of Nagato Yuki-chan 2
Over the past week I have been thinking quite a bit on how I should approach this show. I found that I was looking for was more, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but I think it is unfair to try to hold it up to those standards when it is obviously trying to be something else. After sorting out my feelings like this I actually enjoyed this episode a fair amount. Not only was their less gag comedy and fan service, but also included endearing character development as we see Yuki grow more headstrong. Though covered in cliches the romantic aspects of the show were surprisingly effective. I especially like the show’s use of soft colors to portray how much emotion Yuki has in this show, it really contrasts with how Yuki was in Haruhi. They didn’t oversell the drama, and let the character’s new personalities play off of each other. I even saw a little bit of the old Yuki and Kyon in there somewhere, probably due to them reusing some of the old music from Haruhi such as Oi Oi and Futatabi Deaeta Danin Tachi. This episode wasn’t amazing, but it was a solid transition away from the previous episode that left me frustrated with the show. I am not sure whether that was because of the better execution or my change in perspective, but at least I can hopefully watch the rest of this series without banging my head against a wall.
Sound! Euphonium 2
Kyoto Animation has this knack for framing that allows for their superb background art to take the focus in a scene. The backgrounds add this modest drama to the moment that other studios can’t really replicate. Combined with their detailed character movement, Sound! Euphonium allows the characters actions display their emotions rather than using exposition. The only complaint I have with their animation is that since the backgrounds are so highly detailed the simpler character models feel out of place within them. I know its to simplify the animation of the character movement, but it is kind of jarring to see in some shots. At least the simplified character designs allow for more expressions which really made the humor in today’s episode work.
Sound! Euphonium really nailed the timing on the jokes this week. The band nerds Asuka and Midori paired off together and had some of the best moments. I feel that Asuka is unintentionally funny with her engrish, or perhaps Japan likes making fun of America’s stereotypical lines. Either way, Asuka’s jokes are brief, hilarious and remind me of some of my band friends from high school. What truly made me enjoy the jokes though were that they were also utilized well in building the ensemble of characters that the band will eventually offer. The monotone tuba captain, the bubbly Asuka, and the trumpets clique were all established in a lighthearted way, while also giving some depth to them. The trumpet clique in particular was enhanced by Kyoto Animation’s detailed expressions. The audience gets to see the group’s annoyed faces as they watch Kousaka play the trumpet, which gives a lot of insight to their character. Expect some jealousy and cat fights in the future!
The character building was especially poignant in our main character Kumiko. This episode really pointed out Kumiko’s flaw that the show will be focusing on, her lack of initiative and passion. Kumiko constantly complains that she was stuck with the euphonium, yet when Asuka finds out about her past she just accepts that she will play euphonium in high school. Kumiko blames her childhood friend Aoi, but she never fights back for what she wants. Kumiko avoids confrontations and decisions so much so, that she would rather have others making the decisions for her. She grumbles that it was unfair that their instructor let them make their own decision, but was one of the students who didn’t even vote. The instructor, Taki, just wants the students to make their own choices, a lesson that is difficult to learn when one is a teenager. With parents and teachers always making choices for you, its easier to led them lead the way. But finding ones passion and embracing ones own life is all a part of growing up. Like Aoi so aptly said, “Three years pass in a flash” Kumiko doesn’t want to regret using that time for someone else.