Late-breaking simulcast news: A few shows previously unannounced for the UK have popped up on Animax. Its online video section includes episodes from Assassination Classroom season 2, Dimension W, Divine Gate, and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, though they appear to have only limited free availability.
Viewster seems to have abandoned the simulcast business entirely, sad to say.
ERASED #2-3 – Even as Satoru urgently tries to pull Kayo off the path that leads to her disappearance and death, there’s plenty of space for his reflections on how his old life looks through adult eyes. One of his classmates was being abused, and he never noticed before, but now her essay is an obvious cry for help. (Incidentally, that essay’s title is the same as the Japanese title for this show.) His friend Yūki, who seemed so sophisticated and adult before, now seems like an older kid– but still a good person who needs to be saved from death row.
It’s the combination of adult understanding and the powerlessness of a child that makes Satoru’s story so compelling. It also helps a lot that adults in this story are allowed to be intelligent. In many child-centered stories, the teacher would be completely oblivious to Kayo being abused; in this one, he’s a good and decent person who is doing the right thing– but still there’s that horror from knowing along with Satoru that it’s not quite enough.
This is hands-down the best new show of this season. Atmosphere, writing, art, it’s got it all.
BBK/BRNK #2-3 – On the surface, this is a kid-oriented show about some kids and their super robot fighting an evil dictator, but dig deeper, and there is a lot going on here.
Start with Ōbu and Entei, who have been enemies since forever. 24 years before the present day of the show, they fought under the control of Migiwa and Reoko respectively. Now they are personified as Azuma and his four new friends versus Reoko and her four lieutenants. If you check the handy dramatis personae in the opening sequence, you start to see complements and parallels between the two groups. Each corresponding pair has opposite genders, for instance. It’s also implying that each pair to is destined to fight each other, just as the “right hands” are already going at it.
Another part of their opposition is the way each group works together, or doesn’t. Azuma is told that the heart can’t simply act as the ruler of the limbs, but that’s precisely how Reoko operates, and perhaps why Entei doesn’t join up all its components when facing Ōbu.
Then there’s the problem posed by Azuma’s sister Kaoruko. There is one bubuki tied to the Kazuki line, and Azuma has inherited it. But Kaoruko was able to conjure something that looked almost exactly like Ōbu’s heart, so what’s going on there? The easy answer after episode 1 was that she grew up to be Reoko, but Reoko turns out to be at least 40.
Still, I think Kaoruko is tied to Entei. It could be that her and Azuma’s father is from Reoko’s family. And it would explain Migiwa’s advice to the twins, that if things ever go badly, all they need to do is join hands. It could have been her plan to resolve the feud between Ōbu and Entei.
That leaves the question of whether Kaoruko is still alive somewhere, or if Reoko has been maintaining her youthful appearance by switching bodies. At any rate, a show which can bear this much analysis this early is definitely worth sticking with.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans #14-16 – Finally arriving at Earth, Kudelia and Tekkadan are hailed as liberators because someone is using them as cover to aid revolutionaries who can then be crushed if they are sufficiently heavily armed while provoked. Upon realizing how his subsidiaries have been used, the head of Teiwaz… phones up the head of the conspiracy and offers to do more business with him. Cross another adult off the list of people that Tekkadan can trust.
Biscuit is the latest crewmember to have a previously unmentioned sibling. Savarin (probably named for Brillat-Savarin, given the family theme) is one of the lucky few to have gained some upward social mobility, and has tried to be a bridge between the upper and lower classes, only to see it all unravel when the rebellion starts.
Now the rebels are dead and that should be that, but thanks to Atra and Fumitan, Kudelia has not only survived, but emerged as the heroine she always wanted to be. Except she’s learning that she shouldn’t have wanted it so much.
This show is still going strong, but the animation is starting to show the strain of running a show for two consecutive seasons. In particular, characters seen from a distance are starting to go badly off-model. While the writing, acting, and so forth are doing fine, this is going to be a problem if it starts distracting viewers from the other aspects of the show.
Active Raid #2-3 – Active Raid has decided what it wants to be when it grows up, and that is: a cautionary tale about a highly networked world, delivered as an action comedy.
Asami is quickly learning that the problem with this squad may not be a competence issue at all. Given a chance to show everyone how it’s done, she manages to screw up as badly as anyone thanks to a suit system full of crapware and poor calibration. And then circumstances conspire to require her to do a pop idol routine.
Episode 3 is also about how anyone can be anything with enough technology, although that feels a little unfair to Amu, who shows some real presence of mind and performance ability in the face of a scarily obsessed fan cornering him with a piece of construction equipment. (Given the episode theme, I’m pretty sure the person behind the Amu persona is meant to be a cisgender boy engaging in performance art, rather than a transgender girl.)
The villains, such as they are so far, appear to just be hackers in it for the lulz rather than world domination or anything like that. This isn’t shaping up to be a morality play, just a fun exploration of how nuts the future can be.
Norn9 #2 – Once the attack is over and the dust settles, it’s time to sit down and do some explaining, right? Wrong! It’s time to uncork a big bottle of sexism and make the reviewer regret everything I said last time about avoiding superpowered-teenager-show clichés. The only moves toward exposition involve some mutterings about a “reset” and a reveal that the ship is moving through time at a different rate than the world outside.
There’s an antagonist, but we don’t learn anything about him. We also don’t get to learn anything more about the crew, as everyone pairs up for contrived reasons so that the only people we get to hang out with are Kakeru and Koharu again.
Well, Norn9, you got your chance and you blew it. You’re pretty, but that’s all.
Utawarerumono: The False Faces #13-16 – Coming back from hiatus a week before everyone else, Utawarerumono has managed to execute an entire war in three episodes, primarily because invoking the magic that protects Yamato is roughly equivalent to allowing a World War II artillery unit into a Dungeons & Dragons scenario. In a very short time, Haku has witnessed citizens of Yamato being slaughtered by their own after being forced to fight for the enemy; his friends fighting and killing to save their own lives; and a whole city destroyed by what is essentially a bombing campaign.
It is not suprising that he comes back to the capital deeply upset by the whole experience. His friends’s solution is: get drunk and be idiots, because booze cures everything! So the story whiplashes back from war to stupid hijinks.
This remains a show full of amazing production values but highly uneven writing. Still, it’s not consistently bad enough for me to justify cutting it, and next time it’s promising another whiplash over to science fiction, so it’s not going to be boring.
With room for a maximum of five shows in our lineup and Norn9 as the weakest link, it’s time to cut that and go forward with the rest.