This Week: Kill La Kill, Nagi No Asukara, Space Dandy, Pupa, and Gundam Build Fighters.
Some series throw a carnival for their looming finales, others go deep sea diving.
Kill La Kill (episode twenty two)
Junketsu finally gets to have a reaction.
Of all the dismemberment, blood fountains, croquettes, missile barrages, and so on this episode, that scene of the destroyed uniform crawling away and the earlier one of it screaming was one of the primary things on my mind when the credits rolled. Junketsu has been either an inert object locked down or railroaded along ever since their introduction. Seeing them get to express an opinion of any kind is important at this stage. Especially if that opinion was amounting to a non-verbal equivalent of “I am in indescribable torment.”
I expect Junketsu to speak by the end of the show.
This week a lot of the heavier lifting was done by the episode itself, which was nice as far as me needing to parse things out is concerned.
We reiterate how the Life Fibers travel through the universe. The scissor blades are back together for Ryuuko, and both halves of Bakuzan are in Satsuki’s hands. How do Ryuuko and Satsuki need to move forwards as sisters? Well, there’s no need to outwardly force bond at this stage. They’ve gone through some things together, and their sibling’s blood is now flowing in each of their clothes. Said uniforms feel warmer as a result. This is especially true for Ryuuko, who also has Mako’s blood and that level of ironclad friendship reminder to keep her head on straight.
Satsuki textually admits to all the manipulation and chess piece brinkmanship shenanigans she had been doing if one was charting out her decision trees regarding Ryuuko. Ryuuko could kill Satsuki if she punched her for real, but she pulls her throws because she does not in actuality want to cause her too much harm. And she gets chewed out for half assing things by the Elite Four members who stepped in to take those hits.
This ending arc has been so far hitting a number of the conceptual balls it needed to bring about a smoother finish. To the extent where I can see Kill la Kill had a clear beginning, middle, and end phase planned out for its core themes. Then I come to wonder how much of the connective tissue could have benefited from that same level of editing. I do not think the story and fight delivery would flow well in a thirteen episode series. Yet twenty four seems almost too long given how much the more filler oriented bits seemed to derail the show for various folks to one extent or another. There is something of a dilemma there.
This is especially true in regards to the Trigger Newsletter recalling from their planning sessions “There must be some contents that other series wouldn’t dare to exclude… A typical series will depict several characters going through mental distress.“ Which is to say, Kill la Kill features fewer mental monologue escapades, so many things from that inner angst department need to be derived via the visual or verbal fronts.
Such is the plan, at any rate. I know different internet writers have very diverse opinions on how effective this matter actually is. Either way, each of those are outward expression. Like clothes.
Given that, I do wonder how different a reception Kill la Kill would have if we did see more inner arguments to tell the audience things, angst filled or otherwise.
How would the reception to Ryuuko’s shifting actions differ if we had to hear a more elaborate series of internal thoughts rather than needing to try and connect various outward dots with incomplete inner data? Would that have strengthened the show, or is the series one better suited to operating at full speed like a spinning top and it would instead fall over and crash had it slowed down? What would the audience be saying, or how different of an audience would it have cultivated?
I’m not sure myself, but it’s interesting to think about.
Nagi No Asukara (episode twenty three)
Remember when I used to compliment this show on its writing for adolescents? Now, much like the characters themselves, the show has me dreaming of the past in fanciful ways I may not be able to actually obtain.
Even the seagull is starting to get into questioning what these folks are up to.
Chisaki being relived that Manaka forgot so much about Hikari ground all my gears in the worst way.
It has been five years. Half a decade. Her childhood friend has a serious lobotomy issue whose circumstances may or may not be keenly relevant for an end of the world ice age. She is in a medical training program en route to becoming a nurse, with all that entails. And is continuing to freak out over a crush from ages ago she did nothing about way back when, with zero romantic relationships in the time since. Her just running away from Tsumugu sealed it for me: her adult age narrative bugs me on a level I see as detrimental to the program.
For me, this is intrinsically linked to the entire love dodecahedron shtick the show wants to have in conjunction with its big time skip. All the plates it is trying to spin were only ever going to be maintained for so long. We could have had the love geometry stuff without the time skip, while the temporal jump would have been far more compelling if anyone on shore had moved on. That would been excellent, really: a more young adult age character in their whole new relationship after so many years had elapse, and being being able to see the very same person they used to hold feelings for as the exact age said individual was when those feelings existed. It would be a rather rich well for individual reflection on how the years had treated them in the time since, or the person they used to be.
But nobody did move on.
Chisaki and Miuna were still cruising for Hikari, while Sayu flat out states the only reason she did anything related to work or study for the last half decade was out of feelings for Kaname. Oy. We have our sea god scale going “there are some things in the world you can’t do anything about,” which I hope starts to sink in for someone soon because we are rapidly running out of time. This series had such a great opportunity for a rather particular kind of character explorations, and it has so very unfortunately seen fit to leave it on the table.
Sayu at least has finally worked up the sense of self to ask Kaname out. Good for her. She can be the little momentum engine that could. Assuming she goes through with it.
Space Dandy (episode eleven)
All the primary key animation this episode was cranked out by two people, who also served as Animation Directors in different capacities (Mori on the mechanical end). The episode director was also Okuno, who has a vast industry history covering multiple decades. We are talking was doing key animation for Armored Trooper Votoms, with nary a hiccup over thirty years. His resume is a deep well of all kinds of drawing, so one can look at this episode as a sort of showpiece performance demonstration.
With a narrative revolving around a giant library planet never being able to remember an alien, this episode did give me vibes of a Doctor Who or Twilight Zone episode.
Likewise, the black and white sketch style reminiscent of ink and paper reminded me a lot of Watanabe’s A Detective Story pulpy newspaper looking short from The Animatrix. In turn, what we have is more of a stylish thought exercise than much of a character story, involving the idea of books reading us so that they may see what they themselves read about. I think this keeps it from going too far off the rails though. It stays squarely on classic television science fiction fundamentals while our smaller staff deliver it up. Right down to statements like “It happened – whether you remember or not is irrelevant.”
Very purposeful, beat-like delivery on a small perception idea. Not one that lead to much on the action-comedy front, but, I made the transition and enjoyed what I saw and the time I spent without feeling I needed more to that particular narrative. Which is a great compliment to that variety of science fiction writing.
On a side note, as Honey got to read this episode:
Remember where there was that big internet hullabaloo weeks ago because a line of Honey’s dialogue was changed in the first episode of the English dubbed version? And this was going to supposedly massively change how the character would be perceived? We’ve barely heard a peep from the poor girl outside of the occasional line, even so many episodes in.
Looking back and reading some of what was said when that one staff member remarked on the Honey situation, and seeing where we are now… It’s like folks are talking about entirely different programs.
I’d be watching it regardless, even without knowing what kind of show it turned out to be by this point, because pulpy raygun and space alien stuff makes up a lot of the movies I watched as a kid. But, I do feel Space Dandy is in a boat with much of the anime community like when serious movie buff folks feel compelled to have to watch an auteur director’s newest film, even if it isn’t their kind of thing. Which is why I do try to at least minimally emphasize more of the rotating staff carousel material.
Pupa (episode ten)
Of all the things Pupa does, one thing I will defend it for is its use of a watercolor and sketchbook art aesthetic.
But, in design matters such as this, it is important to know when and where the style would tend to break down. To be more specific, generic uniformed military troopers in olive garb should not be a prominent visual part of an episode. You end up with a blurry, slurry mess of undefined blob shapes.
Boy, there sure was a big slaughterhouse fight that happened between last week and this week though.Shame we did not get to see any of it.
Instead we get Yume wandering around interchangeable corridors wondering where her brother is, as the guys with machine guns stand around and wonder what happened. Wouldn’t you know it, this is the exact kind of team who have explicit orders from command to “dismember her and secure the severed flesh with metal.”
So the fully armed guards surrounded by severed bodies… approach to an absurdly close range for what I can only imagine as an insane attempt to subdue her physically. Cue blood fountain.
Guns, guns everywhere, but not a drop of a single bullet to drink.
Gundam Build Fighters (episode twenty three)
As everything would tend to become much more linear once the final tournament fight and aftermath start, this is our breather and general screw around week. A big Gundam themed carnival, full of franchise fanservice from across the decades and fit for all the copious cameos they can cram into twenty minutes.
I have seen a nice chunk of Gundam media, but by no means have I seen them all. Even so: there were so many references, shout-outs, and visual nods during this big celebration that any passing familiarity with the franchise would be able to provide a viewer something to latch on to. They even involved the life sized Gundam RX-78, and the brand new life sized Zaku unveiled this month!
This series is an advertising vehicle on multiple levels.
Plot wise, we have Caroline and Nils going all Scooby-Doo on us looking for corporate secrets, Tatsuya gets to have a pre-final heart to heart with Sei and Reiji, and Mr. Iori is back in the picture. Aila and China work together to build a Gunpla (and the Miss Sazabi looks suitably refined compared to its base model), our leads get to have a friendly exhibition match for the public, and Gunpla Idol Kirara gets to put Ricardo Fellini’s fancy new Gundam Fenice Rinascita in a blush inducing sleeper hold. There is not a whole lot to dig into thematically or comment upon in depth, just a fun day out for everyone before things go into serious mode.
Speaking of which: Tatsuya’s Exia Dark Matter is sporting a coat of paint nearly straight off of the Gundam Epyon. As the Exia already possesses Trans-Am overdrive functionality, I think it would be a great finale spectacle if the Flana Institute also had worked in the Epyon’s ZERO system of battlefield tactical data for the Mejin costume. Gundam Wing and 00 are spiritually linked, so it would be a nice gesture and upgrade for the Embody system.
Hangers is a weekly series containing my passing thoughts on currently airing anime productions. Opinions, as always, are subject to change.