This Week: Kill la Kill, Nagi No Asukara, Miss Monochrome, Coppelion, Monogatari Series: Second Season, Non Non Biyori, Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods, and Gundam Build Fighters.
What a strange and unusual week. This is at least part of why I do not subscribe to “three episode” rules.
Some productions changed thematic gears, others artistic ones. What seemed like previously pretty solid ground for a few is now potentially giving way to marshy swamps.
Kill La Kill (Episode 4)
The cartooniest episode of this cartoon to cartoon thus far in our cartoon season.
I think this has a few notable things going on as a result.
Certainly, it is no secret that Trigger is a company with some pretty tight financial resources. In that respect, having a whole episode operating with a more frantic and choppy style does have a functional purpose, without a doubt. However, this is also an episode all about pajamas, which are among the simplest (and most comfortable) clothes one tends to have in their wardrobe arsenal. A more easygoing and relaxed animation style is entirely appropriate on a thematic level, in addition to setting up the Looney Tunes style gags right down to the good old Fake Landscape The Characters Run Into And Knock Down trick.
Ryuuko is forced to tackle the episode essentially sans Senektsu. While she does manage to pick him up near the end, his abilities are not what really saved the day, to the point where he himself even mentions his power would not have been sufficient to get Ryuuko to school on time. Instead, she tackles the obstacle course, faces the traps, and on the overall does what she needs to do using her own head and ingenuity up to and including straight up commandeering the air cable car express for the final push.
Ryuuko has not had this much screen time without Senketsu on hand since the start of the series, and this episode is keenly important in forcing her to face the dangers of Honnouji Academy without that option after already firing up her opposition. As much as she may be wishing she had Senketsu, she is still very much her own person and still capable in her own right, even when as “defenseless” as one would feel in pajamas.
…Which, if we are being honest, is also still a lot more clothing than the Go Nagai heroine of Kekko Kamen was granted while making many similar points and jabs at the nature of costumes. Our heroine there pretty much just had a mask, boots, and scarf. It will be interesting to see if (or more likely when) Kill la Kill makes a go at interpreting that level of frankness going forwards given all the “Get naked!” sheanigans.
With the next episode entitled “Trigger” and looking to shift the animation style back from what we experienced here, I can only imagine what Studio Trigger may have up their sleeves.
Nagi No Asukara (Episode 4)
Were this series a card or video game, I would describe this as a “Gear Check” episode, so ensure it has the right equipment to proceed after the more dramatic previous episodes.
We have seen the well timed opening moves. Barriers, sentries, and code gates of character relations are all in play on the one end of the field. Now Nagi No Asukara needs to increasingly see if it can actually navigate itself.
I think it managed the test quite well. Hikari experiences some more honest to goodness development in his firebrand ball of hormones and Manaka spends more time with him. Akari heads to the temple and walks straight over Uroko-sama, who gets a message himself. The two little girls outside the supermarket are given proper triggering into various character arcs in a layered and sensible fashion. By the end Chisaki actually ends up feeling the most slighted and lonely of the whole group as she continues to want things to remain as they always were under the ocean, while seeing so much before her that makes that goal seem increasingly impossible.
The cast of kids continue to sound and react like kids in such a way where I am not groaning at the screen or finding my suspension of disbelief being called into question. The actions and reactions remain rather sensible for their personalities, relationships, and age. And that is a genuinely difficult thing to work through as a romantic drama series written by adults desiring to use so much peeling of onion layers where another team would have chosen an easier and more direct approach.
Miss Monochrome (Episode 5)
Ru-chan, you can not eat pumpkins.
But I will always believe in you anyway, whatever you do, wherever you go.
I always enjoy seeing a genuine Halloween themed episode of a show, as they tend to be such a novelty, so this was really nice to see.
The economic subtext continues, as the manager does not forget to remind us of his second job on top of all of this. If we are being perfectly honest, Monochrome may even be stealing internet with that antenna of hers, as I can’t imagine she pays for her own in that room.
To take this one step further, she is functionally in the right in terms of how she processed the information she data mined regarding Halloween and choosing to terrify the loving daylights out of the children. Think about it: When people ask for Halloween themed recommendations for shows or movies to watch for instance, do they normally get things that exclusively deal directly with the season? Not really. Folks will push anything that fits within the “generates scares” category, and while perfectly fun in its own right for viewing, is also precisely the sort of thing that would confuse a more direct mechanical reading.
Coppelion (Episode 5)
The nice thing about Coppelion is that it airs on a Wednesday, where I have the shortest turn around time between watching it, processing what I saw, and thinking about what I might write about it for this post.
I’m actually also at the point where I need to take a few notes during it, or I would outright forget what happened.
We have more buckets of exposition dialogue, agency names and industrial partners, with the realization that after all the previous episodes (saving missing a kid, the Professor, etc) we are running out of ways to Raise The Dramatic Stakes. So we are thrown an overturned truck with a man who has a daughter in the back who is also pregnant, that way she can serve double duty and buy more time until the writing team figures out their next stunt.
To that end, our Highly Trained Coppelion unit… doesn’t really do anything we haven’t already seen before. Aoi yells a lot, Taeko remains the Quiet Girl by virtue of being shot, and Ibara gets to say leadership type things into the radio essentially by default. Her handgun remains an eternal Get Out Of Jail Free card by it now having the ability to shoot smoke grenade and remote detonated explosive mines in addition to its previous capabilities.
The “dolls” aspect of things comes up in conversation again, but I can not take an ounce of it with any of the weight they would like because there is not yet a single remotely human character in this production. The Prime Minister is a ludicrous caricature who will wear a gas mask but no other protective gear, and scream about how important they are while throwing a big old temper tantrum demanding our team of high school girls now needs to eliminate a highly trained military division. But I just don’t care about what is going on with either end of the conversation, because the production is so aggressive with telling rather than showing that they’re just cardboard cutouts flittering in the wind.
The Vice Principal’s emergency call to bring in the Cleanup Crew, which seems to consist of male student/s from the program that engineered our girls, will probably bring some sort of weird romantic drama. Which is probably the least likely set of affairs this show is equipped to handle.
Monogatari Series: Second Season
Oh hold until the Shinobu arc wraps up.
Non Non Biyori (Episode 4)
I am increasingly thinking this is the kind of show an offshoot of Makoto Shinkai might make were they in the business of producing Girls Doing Things style situational comedies. The strength of natural backgrounds, quiet pacing of small youthful concerns, that sort of thing.
Except I don’t like Makoto Shinkai’s movies. But I do like Non Non Biyori.
We switch, understandably, to a Renge episode, the only member of the core cast who has not had dedicated stories featured yet. As the youngest and the bluntest of the group, this is also probably where the show was most likely to get derailed. I think the idea of her meeting another girl of her age who was visiting the area for Summer vacation was a good one, as having someone of ones own age around is good from a character perspective and personal identification with her situation. Those serendipitous friendships of circumstance that, in the end, have a distance issue come up as folks leave.
When Renge shows up to play and her friend is already gone, that was very much a critical moment in this show. It was going to show us how careful it was really being, because it could have gone all loud, blubbering, and dramatic. I would have been disappointed in what that would mean for us going forwards. That they were able to hold that shot of her processing the information for so long, and slowly, ever so much realizing her friend had left, having a little very low key cry as she slinked home, that leaves me far more engaged as a viewer because I can better identify with that reaction and trusting what the show wants to do with these characters going forwards.
The show isn’t treating me like an idiot who needs cheap “feels” served on an anime fast food tray, which for a Girls Doing Things show is actually rather impressive.
Gingitsune: Messenger of the Fox Gods (Episode 4)
I think we are hitting the point where I might have to move to placing a caution light over this series.
Pretty much all of the screen time is given to introducing yet more characters, the stern and quiet Satoru in addition to Haru more abrasive divisiveness. Dialogue moves more into exposition dump territory, they argue about backstories we do not know and are then provided an expository Cinderella story flashback, we have the most basic of arguments about A Boy living with A Girl…
Compared to the first two episodes, which I think would have made for a swell little OVA package, I am finding myself less and less enthralled by what we are presented with here. I think we have the groundwork for an interesting enough series with just everything the first two episodes introduced, and we’re instead dolloping on this malaise that is not so much slice of life, or drama, or… much of anything, really. It feels like it is being spread too thin and trying to have too much in too little the space to accomplish it.
Unlike Coppelion, which I was not really sold on to start with and then things became so much worse, this is so far my largest momentum shifter from positive outlook to feeling shaky and worrisome.
Gundam Build Fighters (Episode 4)
We finally had an episode dealing more with female characters (both China and otherwise), and it… was not as well handled as I led myself to have believed from the earlier episodes. It seemed they were keeping them more reserved and hinting for a stronger and better rollout than this given China’s previous characterization and scenes. She immediately snaps into Passive Aggressive Anime Girl mode the instant Sei has the audacity to talk to Another Girl, which comes pretty much entirely out of left field.
Our Other Girl in turn essentially uses her Feminine Charms to Break His Dumb Nerd Stuff and Manipulate Other Boys To Get Her Things. We get alarmingly close to full blown Fake Geek Girl territory as well given her whole reveal that it was Just To Get Attention and parasitically latch on to the True Fandom Believers.
Granted, Sei attempts to put the barest of minimally positive spins on things, but… still. This episode did largely feel like having a bucket of cold water dumped on me.
That wasn’t a fun thing to do, Gundam Build Fighters.
I’ll sulk home for now, but when you come back next week bring a fun robot show to play with.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.