Megalobox #2-3 – Sure enough, things start going Junk Dog’s way after he refuses to throw another fight and Nambu has to come up with a bright idea to keep from becoming an involuntary organ donor. With his new forged citizenship card, Junk Dog is now directly identified with the protagonist of Ashita no Joe.
Another parallel this show is leaning on hard comes with the use of “death” or “dead” in every episode title so far. Ashita no Joe famously ended with the protagonist’s death in the ring, though Megalobox could subvert this by simply having Junk Dog abandon the “Joe” identity at the end.
With that out of the way, it’s time to start training! Nambu may be a drunk and a coward, but there is a competent trainer under there, and Sachio will be filling in the technical expertise neither of them have. And just coincidentally, someone needs to pull off a technical miracle to get Junk Dog a working Gear in time for the next day’s match. Although his unofficial match in the prototype proved he can take on a sufficiently incompetent opponent completely without enhancement, I’m sure that’s not going to work against the tougher ones Nambu is lining up for him.
Megalobox hasn’t had a single off moment, visually or narratively, yet. Even though it’s probably heading for an unpleasant ending, this is definitely one to keep watching.
Steins;Gate 0 #2 – The public demo of Amadeus turns out to be a copy of Hiyajō, but on learning that Okabe had met Kurisu, Hiyajō lets him in on the secret that they have a copy of her as well. The digital resurrection is so accurate that Okabe is a weepy puddle by the end of the episode, but at least it hasn’t triggered another nightmare flashback yet. So that’s progress.
Seeing Okabe briefly snap back to his old bombastic self is a big moment for long-time fans. He is notably much more self-conscious about it now, though, another likely sign that this story wants to minimize the otaku quirks that the first Steins;Gate leaned a lot on early on.
What about new viewers, though? That’s where seeing that Hiyajō is being set up as a major character is good news. She’ll be there to ask about any backstory you need filled in— which really, at this point, isn’t much. With that concern addressed, there’s no reason not to keep watching this.
Persona5 the Animation #2-3 – Returning to the alternate reality of the castle for more reconnaissance, Ren and Ryūji rescue a mysterious anthropomorphic cat-being, and then inadvertently pull their classmate Takamaki in. But that’s cool, because it turns out everyone involved can summon Personas, and by the end of episode 3, they’ve all got their new powers and outfits sorted out. TEAM POSE TIME!
By now, they also know that they can perform a kind of psychic surgery by destroying the castle. Like any surgery, there is a certain risk for the patient, but Kamoshida is a bully and a tyrant who’s been casually abusing students for years, so not a huge loss, right?
Takamaki’s new outfit does rather undercut the point she was going for a few minutes before about not being reduced to a sexualized doll, but on the other hand, this is the second show this season to feature a creepy, boundary-violating coach and only the first to figure out that this is a bad thing. Overall, I think this is going very well so far.
Cute High Earth Defense Club HAPPY KISS! #2-3 – The Karls Knights are called into action again as one transmogrified threat after another threatens the town. First it’s a student upset over effeminate lunches, then it’s a guy upset that people can’t be bothered to remember details. Lurking behind them is a student council determined to impose order on society. Well, one student council president and a cute magical fox determined to impose order on society, and a couple of teammates just going with the flow.
Although it copies many of the forms of earlier Cute High seasons, this one has decided to strike out on its own with a question not examined much in anime (or, indeed, any medium): What if the designated heroes and villains were just not that into fighting each other? Sure, Resisting the Call is an essential part of any heroic story, but usually the Chosen One is forced onto their ordained path by the fact that everyone else in the story is taking it all very seriously.
HAPPY KISS! has less bite than its predecessor— the first season was deconstructing masculinity by episode 3, not just telling someone to get over his prejudice about who can make lunches— but it certainly has something to say. And that something is: Could we all just chill out a bit?
Hakyu Hoshin Engi #13-14 – Sometime in the near future, Taikōbō will be meeting Ōtenkun and learning his backstory. Which includes the news that Ōtenkun’s soul was split, and part of it was implanted in a young Taikōbō, well before the massacre of his village. Genshitenson has been planning for this day, or something beyond it, for much longer than anyone previously suspected.
But he isn’t the only one with a previously undisclosed layer of scheming: Dakki has been working at the behest of a power which seeks to guide history itself. An extraterrestrial power. What.
In retrospect, the slowly rising profile of technology, the excursions into hyperspace and chemistry, and the sprinkling of visual sf movie references throughout have not been mere dabbling for the sake of variety, they’ve been the lead-up to Hakyu Hoshin Engi flinging itself bodily over the border from fantasy to science fiction. I don’t think we’re in the Fengshen Yanyi anymore. Where this story is headed now is hard to guess, and it would be a shame to leave it now.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These #2 – Now it’s time to jump back and watch the same battle again, only this time with the other side’s genius, Yang Wen-li. Yang is known as the hero of El Facil, which, for those of you unfamiliar with Spanish, means “The Easy One”. Not exactly a laurel to rest on. Yang’s new right-hand man, Lao, is so convinced of his freakish luck at surviving hopeless battles that I expect him to be randomly killed in a common household accident at any moment.
Just as von Lohengramm’s moment of brilliance consisted of not doing the most obviously stupid thing possible, Yang’s clever idea seems like the sort of contingency plan that any moderately competent huge space navy would have as a matter of course. But no, anything that keeps them from having to explain their next set of movements in detail over unencrypted comms is the greatest invention since sliced space bread.
The music and visuals are suited to an epic, making the sight of a hundred CGI cruisers executing unnecessarily banked turns in unison into a glorious spectacle. But the story is not holding up its end of the bargain.
Caligula #2 – After a lot of fighting and running, Ritsu has a chance to interrogate his rescuer about what exactly the heck is going on. Two rounds of attempted explanation just lead to confusion and arguing. Everyone just wanders around the city observing other freaky phenomena as the episode kills time until the big revelation at the end: everyone’s trapped in a world built by μ! Just as the premise of the show said!
At the end of episode 2, Caligula is in a remarkably similar place to the end of Persona5‘s episode 2. The core characters are the protagonist, the tough guy, and the cute non-human, we have a villain operating in an unpredictably warped reality, and the frame has started to expand to show how secondary characters are being affected. However, where Persona5 has a sense of relentless forward motion, Caligula has to hold things back by making characters useless at communication so as not to spoil anything too quickly. Persona5 has also distinguished itself by being much more efficient at providing depth to its characters.
There is only room for one reality-altering high school investigation and fighting show in this lineup this season, and Caligula is not going to be it.
Hozuki’s Coolheadedness 2 #15 – Peach Maki is curious about the roots of magical girls, but somehow this leads to Hōzuki summoning a witch who is a personal friend of Lilith and then everyone becoming obsessed with fashion. And being very bad at it.
It has a few good moments, but this is the second weak episode in a row for this show. While it’s been nice to see Hōzuki and his friends and colleagues again, it’s time to make the painful decisions about what to keep covering, and I’m afraid this does not make the cut. I still recommend checking out the earlier episodes, though.
So our lineup for the rest of the season is Steins;Gate 0, Persona5, Megalobox, Cute High, and, against all apparent odds, Hakyu Hoshin Engi. Quite a mix— and just think, it’s only two months until we do this all over again!