This week: why the beach episode of Suisei no Gargantia is entirely appropriate and meaningful, what we can infer about the settings in Hataraku Maou-sama! and how they will dictate the story from here onward, why I have been impressed with how Devil Survivor 2 handles its extensive cast, and the main reason why we return to Kakumeiki Valvrave every week.
Best episode of the week: Shingeki no Kyojin
Anime trending up this week: Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Bride
Anime trending down this week: To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S
Chihayafuru 2 (Episode 17)
The finals match against Fujisaki offers the cast of Chihayafuru the opportunity to play against themselves… or at least a doppelganger version of themselves with some minor quirks and differences. Across from Taichi is someone who seems to be equally as smart but differs in their karuta rank (Class A versus Class B) and openness of their sexuality (obsessive versus reserved for Chihaya). Nishida’s opponent is also heavy-set and playing with a heavy heart after his brother was removed from the line-up of the finals match. Tsukuba’s partner is eerily similar to Tsukaba in that they’re both annoying and forgettable and Tsutomu met his opponent, Makoto, when he was scouting Fujisaki, so the two share some knowledge of each other though they seem to be the least parallel among the others. And of course, Chihaya is matched up against Rion, who like Chihaya is somewhat of a prodigy in karuta though her love for the game is only observable when her grandmother is reciting the poetry. So with this current set-up, it’s as if we’re looking into a bizarre mirror of Mizusawa when we’re watching them play against Fujisaki. How this will measure or impact the characters has yet to be seen but, given how similar they are to our familiar cast except for certain specific differences, you figure some type of character development will occur for each player before the final card is claimed.
Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge (Episode 5)
I am aware that a majority of school-setting anime have a discernible lack of adults in them, but Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge has been completely devoid of all parents and teachers save for Kashiko’s mother who runs the local beauty parlor. Hell, in this episode where the schools go out for a camping trip, there weren’t any teachers around, only high school kids who were helping out. Sure, we’ve seen a handful of other adults in the series but none of them belong in the authoritative role that would otherwise be there to support our cast of characters. This exclusion of trustworthy adults leaves Kiri and Iwai without anyone to turn to in these dire or zany situations. Just think about how a parent or a teacher could help Kiri or Iwai, even if it was something minimal. The fact that there are zero parents and teachers up to this point is somewhat significant in how it fits into the whole ‘death game’ model that Crime Edge seems to enjoy. With the inclusion of helpful parents and teachers, there would be obstacles and barriers that would otherwise complicate scenes or make them more practical. And of course, who’d want that in an anime like Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge?
Devil Survivor 2 the Animation (Episode 5)
The cast of Devil Survivor 2 continues to expand and expand with every passing episode and has ballooned to roughly 14 distinctive characters in the span of 5 episodes. It’s no easy task to introduce so many distinctive characters while executing a story, several extensive battles, and a couple of infodumps that explain the setting and the mechanics. Rather, I’m actually very impressed and pleased with how Devil Survivor 2 has presented its cast and how its characters fit together with each other. Why do I feel this way? Well, for starters, I actually know virtually all of the characters at this point whereas in virtually every other anime this season, I can’t name even half their cast. Another point is that each has had some significant screentime where I’ve begun to establish a foundation for each character, and I have a general idea of their personalities, too. The same can’t be said for most anime in regards to their cast. And each passing episode of Devil Survivor 2 has had meaningful development on its cast, so seeing the various characters of this swelled up cast progress on their own is nothing short of fascinating. I couldn’t be happier with how Devil Survivor 2 has introduced its cast in these introductory episodes but how it handles them from here out and in regards to the story is still up in the air.
Hataraku Maou-sama! (Episode 5)
With the first story arc of Hataraku Maou-sama! eseentially over, I have come to the realization that the two settings that constitute Maou-sama! will serve entirely opposite purposes in this anime moving forward. Pretty much everything that comes from Earth will be related to the comedy or romance and anything that transpires from the fantasy realm will be related to the story or comedy for either Sadao or Emi. We can infer this from Maou-sama! given that characters (and thusly, their problems) can travel back and forth between the two realms, thereby linking any events from the fantasy world with Sadao and Emi who are still on Earth. This means that while the world progresses and the wars wage on, Sadao and Emi can be interrupted at any time for whatever purpose. As for the events on Earth, not much can happen here that will impact these two characters besides more love-triangle mechanics and comedy. It is extremely unlikely that a storyline will originate on Earth since we’ve already seen that it doesn’t have any considerable source of magic, that everyone here is already underpowered and that humans have no reason to target Sadao or Emi who are both financially-struggling young adults. Should something stem from an event or person on Earth, they’ll likely have some assistance and motives that connect it back to the fantasy realm that Sadao and Emi are originally from. So with that in mind, we can guesstimate how events and storylines will play out merely from the setting from which they occur. Of course, with new characters being instituted in last episode, things may change slightly but this rule should be the norm from here on out in Maou-sama!
Hyakka Ryouran Samurai Bride (Episode 5)
The ‘beach episode’ is often regarded as one of the worst types of episode there are in anime; a non-essential, unnecessary episode filled with bikini-clad fanservice and recycled comedy that does little more than destroy brain cells. But when it comes to a series that just doesn’t care what it does, it turns out that the beach episode is easily the best episode. Easily. Hyakka Ryouran knows its strengths and knows what its audience wants and it delivered with an episode heavy in both fanservice and comedy. No, there wasn’t any of that nonexistent plot, lackluster character development or annoy harem antics going on in this episode. Instead, it was just straight up fun and entertainment in the form of a series of amusing jokes at each character’s expense. The end result is probably the best episode of this entire sequel (or even possibly series) of Hyakka Ryouran, though there is hope that it will retain this charm for future episodes to come. Let’s hope the plot of this anime is forgotten and the series just churns out episode after episode like this one.
Kakumeiki Valvrave (Episode 4)
The real reason you keep watching Valvrave every week is to see how it will top itself from last week. After four episodes of absolute absurdity and ridiculousness, Valvrave has quickly become one of the most exciting and entertaining anime of the season and it increases with every inexplicable and silly twist that it pulls out. Not only that but there have been so many details and motifs embedded in the anime, there’s a sense of purpose to this reckless and ludicrous chaos. The anime is certainly heading in a direction (which one exactly is yet to be seen) but it makes the journey there worthwhile with every twist and turn imaginable (with several unimaginable ones, too). Even if it ends up with something messy or nauseating or something completely incoherent, at least the voyage that is the story of Valvrave will have served its purpose as being electrifying, amusing and unquestionably satisfying.
Shingeki no Kyojin (Episode 5)
Alright guys, I know you like your system of steampunk cables and that flying around the forests and cities makes you look cool and all, but… it’s about time we reevaluate your strategies and come up with something that, you know, actually works against these titans. I mean, when you’re completely ineffective and lose an entire unit in the matter of a few minutes (part of it was their fault for not knowing here the hell their enemy was), you’ve got to step back, look at the situation and say, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’ Think about all that time that was wasted training these soldiers only for them to end up being the hor d’oeuvers for the invading titans. All that time and effort and resources… wasted. And it’s mainly derived from an ineffective and complex method of cables and swords that is extremely difficult to master and even harder to execute in practice. What’s more is I can’t help but notice is that everyone is using this method, too. You know, we heard that the methods of cannons worked for a bit, even if it was able to immobilize them for a bit, so why not have a unit of gunners work to immobilize a titan and then have a spiffy sword-cables guy go in and finish him off? Or maybe do something with fire? Fire is always effective. The point here is that mankind relies too heavily on this ineffective method of slaying giants and that you figure, within 5 years of the titans invading the outer wall and causing chaos and turmoil for humanity, that there’d be some better way of taking out these titans than what we currently see. Maybe as the anime progresses, we’ll see some advancements in military technology that will replace this method of cables and swords and replace it with something much more successful.
Suisei no Gargantia (Episode 5)
I’m actually rather surprised at the amount of criticism and backlash that’s been levied against the fifth episode of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. Whereas people have berated the episode for being nothing more than pointless fanservice layers on a superfluous and expendable narrative, I found the episode to be entirely appropriate for Gargantia, especially with its current placement in the series. Really, isn’t this what Gargantia is supposed to be? Consider the series thus far from Ledo’s perspective: he’s spent his entire life in the military, fighting against a freak alien race, and always thinks and evaluates everything in a strictly economic and effective manner. Chamber informs him that, following the battle he participated in during the opening scenes of the first episode, that he would be given a chance to vacation which Ledo contemplated the purpose of. With him crashed and stranded on Gargantia, he’s had to quickly adjust to a completely different lifestyle where he tries to find his purpose on Gargantia. Furthermore, his own steadfast and failsafe philosophy is being challenged too, by Bevel, who asks him what he would do with his life once the war is over. Not only that but Bevel is a chronically ill child who, according to Ledo, has no value and would otherwise be disposed of back in space. What this has done is place Ledo in a very upsetting and perplexed situation, one in which he begins to question the foundations and teaching of his entire life. And now, with the fifth episode of Gargantia, Amy and the girls decide to introduce Ledo to ‘fun and relaxation’. Yes, the whole point of this beach episode was to place Ledo in another distressing situation, one in which he was searching for a purpose in his presence here but quickly escalated into a time of enjoyment and pleasure. It just so happened that this episode turned out to be a bit sexy and wacky with the bikini-clad girls sunbathing and the regrettable crossdressers chase, but each of those points were there to heighten or enhance the amusement and entertainment of the audience. In fact, the use of fanservice and comedy in this episode was likely a method of conveying the fun that Ledo was supposed to feel to the audience. Hell, look at the two missions that Ledo and Amy were sent on: get steak sauce for the barbecue and turn on some sprinklers. Like, the whole point of this episode was to show Ledo how to have fun and the anime wanted to have fun with the audience. Now I completely understand that many anime fans don’t care to see underage girls prance around in skimpy swimsuits or see banal crossdressers acting flamboyant over a cute guy’s ass, but I feel that the intent and message of the episode was communicated to the audience effectively. This episode is entirely appropriate for Gargantia and one of the best at forcing Ledo to question his past as a soldier in the military. To say that this episode was a mistake or a disaster is to ignore what Gargantia is about.
To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S (Episode 4)
Really? Did we get an entire episode of Railgun where nothing happened? Like, some anime can pull that off with either comedy or general slice-of-life storylines, but nothing significant or worthwhile happened to Misaka the entire episode. From start to finish, nothing literally happened. I don’t mind that we saw the maturity of a Misaka Imouto clone and that Misaka came across one in the very final scene, but the rest of the episode was an absolute waste. I don’t often contemplate dropping an anime after I begin it but these first four episodes of Railgun are really tempting me.