Last week: tributes or significant references to movies, literature, and music in Psycho-Pass, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, brilliant visual cues in Shin Sekai Yori, issues with the in-game populations in Sword Art Online, and some positives about the fanservice in Little Busters!
Best episode of the week: Psycho-Pass
Anime trending up this week: Girls und Panzer
Anime trending down this week: Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online (Episode 23) – A major noticeable difference between SAO and ALO is how much more populated and charismatic the characters felt in SAO compared to ALO. Whereas SAO had a number of named and recurring characters, ALO has been a bargain on characters with every episode consisting of Kitiro, Lyfa, sometimes Yui, and if we’re really lucky, one or two of the other underdeveloped and underappreciated characters. It’s really a barren world from the story’s perspective and a significant reason why this story arc has been less compelling or intriguing as the original SAO story. With well over a dozen characters interacting, adventuring and conflicting with each other in SAO, not to mention how they interacted with their environment and the game itself to create various societies and rules regarding PKs, ALO feels empty by comparison on how strict it is to follow only Kirito and Lyfa around. As a result, the game of ALO has been left untouched and unexplored, virtually in the same condition as when Kirito started the game as it is now with the story arc almost over. It’s a huge opportunity missed with ALO. Even if it was not a part of the primary storyline, there is no excuse for the severe and damaging lack of characters and development of the setting. And this certainly plays a considerable role in why ALO has been a disappointment compared to SAO.
Shin Sekai Yori (Episode 11) – Unlike previous after prior brainwashing sessions, there’s a new indicator present that certainly holds some visual appeal in how to notify the audience when the characters are struggling to recover memories locked away. That is to say the eye twitching the characters show when thinking about their past is definitely a positive change in the series in how it signals what lines of dialogue are truthful and what are memories implanted in their mind to protect themselves and others from discovering the shocking truth of their society. But the ways the eyes twitch, almost inconspicuous and unremarkable, is a fascinating addition to visually cue the audience of key lines in their dialogue. Of course, the series could do without and leave it up to the attentive members of the audience to figure things out, but the eye twitching is a lovely addition. Not only that, but I wonder if the characters see the eyes twitch themselves in the series and if they are curious about it at all and wonder about its significance. Perhaps this may lead to some development down the line with respect to why the eyes twitch when trying to search repressed memories or false histories. Either way, I find this addition to the series to be intriguing and expressive, and I am happy to see it be placed in the series with a potential for it to be used at any point for the characters to help understand their brainwashed situations.
Psycho-Pass (Episode 9) – I couldn’t help but notice a few similarities between Saiga Jouji’s quick and impressive dissection of Akane’s character by use of criminal profiling and clinical psychology and the opening scene of Blade Runner where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) interviews a young lady named Rachel (Sean Young) and is able to discern whether she’s a replicant or not. With a number of references to Blade Runner already established through the setting and criminal justice system, I found this one to particularly strong and perhaps a bit of foreshadowing. Although the scene from Psycho-Pass was not a direct copy or imitation of Blade Runner, it had a enough of a similarity by felling and purpose that it immediately popped into my mind moments into the scene. As for foreshadowing, along with various hints and suggestions provided throughout the rest of the episode, it might be another piece that points toward Akane becoming a latent criminal before the end of the series, something that would eventually pit Kougami against Akane in the final episodes. Still, regardless of its implications for future story events and characterization, the scene was a pleasant tribute to Blade Runner which I feel has had an immeasurable impact on Pyscho-Pass.
Medaka Box Abnormal (S2) (Episode 9) – The timing of the opening joke in this episode perfectly synced up with Little Busters! for me. Having just finished the episode previously, Medaka opens up the ninth episode of Medaka Box Abnormal by asking what the baseball club does. Although the Little Busters! aren’t the baseball club, I began wondering that myself seeing as they are a baseball team that does everything but play baseball. Just really good timing I guess between watching the two anime.
Little Busters! (Episode 10) – One positive aspect about Little Busters! is how it manages to avoid those typical fanservice clichés while still having some level of fanservice present. What I mean by this is that there was that Riki needed to go to the classroom where the girls were changing into their gym uniforms since that’s where he forgot his tracksuit. Rather than having him walk in on Mio or some other girl still in their underwear, he walked in without incident. And when he knocked Mio over when searching for the baseball, she didn’t fall in such a way her skirt fell up and present her panties for the whole audience to see. Rather, Little Busters! has avoided most of its fanservice besides a few pantyshots early on and most of those were immediately used for character jokes rather than trying to exploit the characters sexually for fans to excite themselves over. In fact, considering the level of fanservice in other anime present this season, even in shows like Shin Sekai Yori (girls/guys kissing each other), Girls und Panzer (multiple bathing scenes), and Psycho-Pass (debatable), Little Busters! is among the least fanservicey in terms of perverseness and ecchi material. And among the most positives about this is that it doesn’t really use any clichés in presenting the fanservice like walking into a room when a girl is changing or girls falling over for timely pantyshots. In this respect, Little Busters! is doing quite well for itself.
Kamisama Kiss (Episode 10) – Although background characters, often given minimal appearances and even less in the way of dialogue, I find their characters to be fascinating. Of note is Umibe who was used as just for gags as a stalker previously but is now shown to be friends with Kei who invited her to her mixer. At the beginning of the series, Umibe was attached at the hip with Tobita and Hitami as a trio who obsessed over Tomoe and Kurama and were used for some quick laughs. The three seemed to be inseparable, traveling together in a group of friends who shared the same interest in boys and… well, that’s about all we got to see from them. Now we see her with an entirely new set of friends, taking part in the mixer with Nanami, Ami, and Kei. Rather than be with her friends from before, here she is with an entirely new group of girls who have somewhat different (read: developed) personalities which, in turn, seems to reveal more about her character than just a simple background character used to show how hot and sexy Tomoe and Kurama are. It’s nothing really important, especially since she never had any lines, but how Kamisama Kiss uses its background characters is nothing short of curious or fascinating. Perhaps the most noticeable is that jerkface Isobe has vanished from the anime after being used primarily throughout the beginning. He hasn’t appeared since making fun of Ami’s panties a few episodes ago. Now, seemingly replacing him is the rather calm but passionate Kei who appeared suddenly just a few episodes ago and was instantly best friends with Nanami and Ami. Likewise, Tobita and Hitami have faded despite being some of the first girls seen at the school. Will there be anyone to replace them, too, or is the anime transitioning away from the school as has been hinted in previous episodes? Either way, I’ll be interested to see how these characters are used throughout the remainder of the anime.
K (Episode 10) – The history between SCEPTER4 and Homra seems to be quite intertwined given the intimate relationships the higher-ups in each organization share. As we’ve seen over the course of this anime, each of the top three in SCEPTER4 and Homra have a bond with each other, specifically that Reisi and Mikoto know each other, Seri frequents Izumo’s bar (enough for him to know her drink), and Saruhiko and Misaki hate each other given how the two broke-up before the series began. Given these various and diverse bonds, it’s no surprise that the two organizations are constantly struggling with each other. It may also hint at why SCEPTER4 is so absorbed in the murder of Totsuka, too, since there might be some history with him to the members of SCEPTER4 than just being an outlaw in Homra. Guess that’ll be revealed sometime later when the anime moves back to his character rather than the two sides chasing after the murderer.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Episode 10) – English print in anime and manga is always fascinating since it is often used from various literary sources that may or may not hold some significance with the series. In the tenth episode of JJBA, the newspaper that Joseph was reading happened to be entire passages from the novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with this novel, but it appears to tell the story of a lads rise from poverty to the upper class. While this mirrors the development of Dio Brando, it does not necessarily mean anything with his character now gone from the story. Rather, the fact that this is a story about an uncanny and talented painter seems more in line with Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo than JJBA. Then again, the book may have been selected as the default English text for another reason than to hint at some character development or anything subtle like that. Or the text could be entirely random and meaningless, just selected since the director or producer liked the novel or something. Who knows? Still, it’s always fun to see what literary works are used for English texts whenever they appear in anime.
Girls und Panzer (Episode 8) – With the sudden revelation that the girls need to win these battles to save their school from going bankrupt, one has to question how the school is funded in the first place, why they’re atop large battleships and that these ships sale all over the world regardless of the school’s discretion but entirely for participation in these fun, little war games. Like, if the school is running out of money, why sail across the globe to Siberia for one game of tanks? Unless the prize money is somewhere in the millions for schoolgirls firing explosives at each other on a frozen tundra, wouldn’t the school’s backing of this club be costing it even more money? I fail to understand the financial background of this anime besides it being used as a device for sudden drama to make these next few battles more meaningful and dramatic than just fun and entertainment. Although I am still enjoying the series for its depiction of warfare, its lighthearted themes and emphasis on friendship, this development about saving the school feels out of place, like it doesn’t really belong with any of the other positive, friendly aspects of the series. And while the anime has made about zero sense before, often feeling illogical but in a fun type of way so that you don’t care about it, this just seemed abrupt and unpleasant. Meh, hopefully it’ll clear itself away quickly or something so the anime can get back to better things like watching tanks drive around and blow each other up.
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! (Episode 10) – Almost immediately did I recognize the melody of Rikka’s song at the end of the episode being Miagete goran yoru no hoshi wo. It wasn’t until a little later did I recall hearing before as the ending theme to the anime Twin Spica which is where I was first introduced to the song. The song was originally written in 1960 for a musical of the same name and was performed by Kyu Sakmoto in 1963. It was likely either of these performances where Rikka’s father heard and fell in love with the song. The song is rather lovely, too, and I’ve begun listening to it again since this episode of Chuunibyou. Whether the song has some significance to the characters beyond just being a beautiful song, I have yet to discover, but the heartwarming and positive nature of the song is certainly appropriate given Rikka’s development at the end of the episode. Really a wonderful ending to this episode.