Behold, the latest edition of Weekly Anime Review! Surprisingly, we’re actually managing to keep on a somewhat consistent schedule this time around. Now all we have to do is apply a bit of elbow grease, and you should have a new WAR post pop up in your RSS feed every Thursday evening! Hooray!
Since I reviewed two episodes of Madoka last week, there’s no recap for this week’s episode. Fear not, however, as it will return in the future. Any other show that’s absent has probably been dropped. For more detailed information on which shows we dropped and which we never bothered writing about in the first place (i.e. Rio Rainbow Gate), check out the last couple of episodes of Bakacast.
Spoilers lurk beyond the break, so tread carefully. And don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comment section!
Star Driver #16
This episode marks the conclusion of the Mizuno story arc, and what a half-assed conclusion it is. The big twist is that Marino is actually a clone…or something…that Mizuno willed into existence because she was lonely. While this could, in theory, make for a great reveal, the set-up and execution is incredibly sloppy. In the half-dozen or so episodes that Mizuno was in (two or three of which focused almost entirely on her, mind you), here is what we learned that is relevant to the twist: she’s a “witch,” Marino is virtually identical to her in appearance and in what she likes, and Marino didn’t see herself in Mizuno’s past when she used her Cybody. That’s basically it. They didn’t even bother to establish Mizuno’s witch powers as particularly impressive. The only “spell” they made a big deal out of was the one that helps you succeed. And yet we’re supposed to believe she can unknowingly create a sentient being out of nothing? Absurd!
Besides that incredibly disappointing resolution of the mystery, though, everything else was quite good. I could have done without another flashback to the rejecting-Marino’s-hand scene, but the rest of the character interaction was pitch-perfect, as usual. However, the obvious focus was on the fight scene. It’s definitely one of the best robot fights this show has had in terms of animation quality, pacing and duration. Plus, it gives the show an excuse to finally show us Takuto’s past. The placement of the flashback is a little awkward, but it makes up for that by being very interesting. I particularly liked the role-reversal; he’s the Sugata of his previous group of friends.
It’s just a shame that so much of the emotional impact hinged on a hasty, ill-prepared plot twist.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Level E #3
Well played, Prince Baka. Well played.
I figured there would be a goofy resolution to this supposedly serious plotline, but I had no idea how extensive the joke truly was. I don’t want to downplay all the little jokes in-between (which were great), but using everything in the first two episodes as an elaborate set-up to an over-arching punch line? Now THAT’S impressive, and it had me laughing really hard. Especially when the prince overlayed text on a still of Miho that read, “A female whose face screams out [censored] to me!” Her reaction shot was fantastic.
Although most of the character development was, for obvious reasons, centered on Prince Baka, Level E still found ways to sneak in little details I just loved. The best example of this is at the end, after the three-month time skip. Yukitaka’s face is noticeably more tanned, which implies he’s been working hard at baseball. We also see that Yukitaka and Miho left a hole in the wall to talk through, and that Miho doesn’t mind him seeing her in her pajamas. That’s a perfect way to show intimacy without using any awkward dialogue and is the sort of writing and directing I adore.
I have no idea where this show is going, but it’s been a wonderful and hilarious ride so far.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Yo dawg I heard you like mystery so we put some mystery in your mystery so now you can slam your head against a wall while GOSICK tries to be smarter than it is.
After fooling no one but itself last week, this episode tried one last time to do something we didn’t expect. The problem is that the only way GOSICK seems to be able to surprise us is when it presents clues that we can’t possibly perceive. When Victorique picks up Julie’s purse, she simply narrows her eyes and moves on. Obviously there’s something odd about her purse, but they don’t bother to tell us what it is. Even Kujo being smacked in the head by it doesn’t give us any information since there’s no reason to believe the purse weighs significantly more than it should. Those things can be quite heavy even without a firearm inside, and it probably would have hurt regardless of the way she was swinging it around. The purse’s weight is supposed to be a big clue, but we’re not given the information we need to even begin to analyze it.
The tennis ball trick was clever in and of itself, but I found it hard to accept that Julie would fall for that twice. They both must know who the other is by this point. Ned even trying to pull the same trick again is stupid and baffling. His mind has clearly gone out the window the next time he appears, so one has to wonder how he managed to pull off that charade. Why did he even snap in the first place? In the last episode, he was a paragon of composure when just about everyone else wanted to jump into the ocean. Suddenly going insane for no apparent reason completely goes against what we know about his character. Maybe he realized how terrible of a story he was in? That’d certainly be enough to make me lose it. And I realize this is nitpicking, but even the set-up for the original rabbit game had problems. America was doing everything possible to stay out of World War I in 1914. Why did these guys bother to get an American kid for that event?
The only saving grace in this episode is the development between Victorique and Kujo. She’s beginning to respect him a bit more (he’s a baller with those brass knuckles), while he’s beginning to trust her judgement. They still butt heads, but that’s what makes them entertaining. The more I think about it, the more I want GOSICK to ditch what it thinks passes for a storyline and become a slice-of-life show centered on those two. They’re the only reason I didn’t drop it after this episode, though I don’t know how long they can carry my interest through these terrible “mysteries.”
Rating: 2 out of 5
I’m a bit concerned with how Fractale is being paced. The first episode had a strong ‘beginning of the adventure’ feel, but this episode feels like the adventure has been put on hold for a bit to give them time to build Nessa’s character. I’m beginning to feel like a broken record for pointing out that this show only has nine more episodes to deliver on its premise.
A lot of interesting allusions were made to the culture that has evolved around the Fractale system. Clain’s discussion with his parents regarding trust, supervision and freedom had enough basis in modern culture to make their views familiar and alien at the same time. Nessa’s antics are amusing for the most part and provide a few clues about what she is, such as her ability to touch Clain’s doppel pet. This series is managing to combine its world-building with character development with very well, which can be difficult to pull off.
Unfortunately, Team Rocket isn’t far behind in this episode. Enri constantly shouting “pervert, pervert!” like a third-rate harem character was completely unnecessary and created a lot of tonal dissonance in the episode. We’re also introduced to her brother, whose calm and calculating demeanor only accentuates how obnoxious the other three are. I don’t want to have to keep talking about these guys, but they keep showing up and irritating me. Seeing them succeed at capturing Claine and Nessa made me facepalm. How can people so incompetent succeed at something so ridiculous? I need a refill on my suspension of disbelief.
I’m not really sure what the overall message of Fractale is at this point, but I’m okay with that. If it were apparent so soon, it’d probably because of it being too heavy-handed. I’m enjoying slowly discovering the characters at a natural pace, but I do hope the writers have planned this out carefully and don’t find themselves rushing through the last few episodes. Those villains are so out of place in something which is otherwise so well-written, and we’ll likely have to put up with them for the rest of the series. They may be what prevents Fractale from making the leap from good to great, and that’s really just too bad.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Wandering Son #1 & 2
I said this would be the main show I would be reviewing this season, but it’s slipped through the cracks. Jon isn’t interested in it, so he keeps giving me other projects in an attempt to keep me from writing about “Wandering Yawn.” Nevertheless, I prevail this week to express my sinking disappointment in this adaptation of one of my favorite manga series.
There are many things that are great about this show: the music, the art style, the animation, the voice acting (for the most part), and the characters’ personalities have carried over intact. It’s not overstating the transgender theme while still keeping it in focus. The melodrama isn’t being blown out of proportion or overly angsty. Most of what was great about the source material has carried over well.
However, good storytelling has not made the jump along with everything else. By starting about 30 chapters into the manga, this anime has the daunting task of introducing a huge cast very quickly that originally accumulated gradually. What we get are clumsy bits from each of them that give us very little to latch onto to get them into our heads. Many of the characters have similar features (short, black hair) and are difficult to distinguish because the show dumps so many of them on us all at once. Two major conflicts are beginning to be resolved, but we’re only told the gist of what happened through short flashbacks. The problem with this method is that it’s not very interesting to see a problem solved when we barely know the characters and understand even less about what happened between them. The bookends with characters sitting at desks and talking to the camera is patronizing and pointless, and gives off a cheesy after-school special vibe that is really jarring compared to the understated nature of the rest of the show.
I understand why they’re starting at this point in the story, but it’s creating a lot of problems that could have easily been solved by simply starting at the beginning. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the manga will be very lost and a little bored, which I feel defeats the purpose. One of the goals of an adaptation should be to bridge a gap and appeal to people who aren’t familiar with the original. Otherwise, it’s just so fans of the manga can see some of their favorite scenes animated, which just ends up being a really long OAD. I’m holding out hope that the anime will be a bit more self-contained once it moves past most of the parts that rely on things that happened off-screen. I just hope it happens very soon.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Dream Eater Merry #3 (DROPPED)
I’m tired of this show trying to pretend something is happening. I’m tired of subplots when there’s still no main plot. I’m tired of the autistic camera. I’m tired of Merry sounding like a broken record. I’m tired of scenes with characters we don’t care about talking about things that make no sense. I’m tired of watching this train wreck. How does a train even wreck if it never pulls out of the station? Actually, this show is too boring to even complain about anymore. Such wasted potential.
Rating: 1 out of 5