Winter 2017 – Week 7 Impressions

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Whereas last week generally offered more of the same, week 7 featured a handful of pretty significant developments and even a few bombshells between Rakugo ShinjuuACCA, and Little Witch AcademiaDemi-chan came off a little plain with its most recent episode though still featured its usual insight into the societal implications of its characters. Youjo Senki took a week off for a recap episode and so outside of the ‘bigger’ shows, I don’t have too much to talk about this week.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen

Given the strength of Rakugo Shinjuu’s first season and just how much that backstory means to each of the characters in the show, it’s always been the moments which recall those past details which stand out as the most complicated and meaningful. So when episode 7 dives headlong into the past, you already know it means business. Scenes like watching the recorded performances of Sukeroku and Kikuhiko hit pretty hard, emphasizing the way in which characters like Yakumo have changed while also allowing us to view Rakugo Shinjuu’s past through Yotaro’s eyes. He’s changed a lot over the course of this season and his intensity, the focus of his stare, and the depth of his passion afterwards speak to these things in volumes.

As if a few great performances weren’t enough, the end of the episode swings around and we revisit the tragedy of the first season. What was already an extraordinarily complex and emotional scene is made all the more tragic with this week’s newfound insight and the nature of it all lends a lot of power to Yotaro’s subsequent collapse into Konatsu’s arms. It was an absolutely fantastic episode.

3-gatsu no Lion (March comes in like a lion)

The whole midsection of episode 18 was breathtaking, featuring some wonderful imagery and animation as well as some great dialogue. The torrent of information and impressions from Shimada that wash over Rei were characterized beautifully by the crushing waves between them. It’s a motif that’s already been established as one of pressure and suffocation yet here the imagery demonstrates a new kind of ferocity and power through its color and animation. The following match cut of Rei’s drowning to his falling asleep in the tub was very well done. The detailed character expressions and the continued use of water imagery contextualized his introspection and bolstered the impact of his subsequent resolve to persevere.

The following scene between Rei and Hayashida-sensei continued this trend of great scenes, demonstrating that, while Rei has been improving himself and steadily coming out of his shell during the study group, that he is still significantly divorced from himself in his own self-perception. He takes his efforts for granted and rather than acknowledging his success, he sees only stagnation. It’s thanks to the observation and validation of people like Hayashida-sensei that allow Rei to look inward and realize these things about himself. It was a wonderful exchange and along with the two proceeding scenes, I think it made episode 18 exceptional despite 3-gatsu’s recent strength.

The insight into Shimada’s hometown was a touching and vulnerable detail and it will be interesting to see whether the events of this episode will shake his determination going forward. He’s been a wonderful addition to the show since his introduction and I can’t wait to see more of him. Speaking of which, I was hoping to get at least a little more insight into Souya during the tournament but I suppose I would prefer the bulk of 3-gatsu’s attention turned back to Rei anyway.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (ACCA: 13th Territory Inspection Department)

I must say, after the rather explicit foreshadowing of last episode, I’m quite happy with how ACCA handled its big reveal this week. Rather than waiting around for the various clues to pile up for multiple episodes, the show jumped right into things with its usual elegant abruptness. So much of ACCA’s style is grounded in its own understated and matter-of-fact tone and it shows just how far that atmosphere goes when moments like these come and go with no more than a sharp utterance from Mauve.

The episode is admittedly a little hamfisted with its gradual reveal, given that practically every scene across multiple character perspectives involves somebody wistfully reminiscing about an event now 30 years past. It makes scenes like Nino’s photographing of the king and Jean all the more solemn and meaningful but renders Magie’s dialogue rather expositional by the episodes end – by that time recounting on something that just about everyone has then spoken to. As a whole, it will be interesting to see what this means for the plot of the show going forward as it’s our first big development though we may have to wait through some hopefully compelling story time with Nino before then.

Little Witch Academia

Though the episode itself may not have featured the funniest gags, the best character moments, or the most enchanting of Little Witch Academia’s visuals, I think it very well might be the show’s most meaningful episode yet. The reason for this is because I think it speaks to the attitude of the show in a very fundamental way. Last week I expressed some concern about how much of what Akko saw in the Fountain of Polaris she would take to heart and it turns out that Little Witch Academia genuinely does have some interest in developing her character. Akko’s crude yet endearing efforts this past episode exhibit a very newfound determination to the point where her friends notice her acting out of character.

What I find so compelling about this development is that Akko doesn’t even find much success despite her redoubled efforts. In the same way that she learned last episode that passion alone can never replace hard work, she is beginning to realize that genuine effort cannot compensate for the knowledge and experience she lacks. It’s well-written growth and though she only narrowly avoids expulsion this episode on a technicality, she’s clearly taking steps forward. It’s an inescapable and wonderfully endearing fact that Akko will always be Akko but I’m gladdened that Little Witch Academia will continue to feature this developmental throughline amidst its more episodic presentation.

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon (Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid)

While some of Maidragon’s more suggestive comedy between Riko and Kanna may have felt a bit odd this week, the latter parts of the episode double down on the qualities that have made the show both so humorous and and endearing thus far. Though Fafnir isn’t given nearly as much characterization as Tohru or Kanna, his progressing friendship with Makoto this episode was charming in its simplicity. Given his past comments about relationships between Dragons and humans and his generally grim personality, this kind of acceptance offers some compelling contrast to his regular character and makes the short series of understated scenes surrounding him this episode seem rather pleasant

The additions of Georgie and Shouta as well as this episode’s brief focus on Lucoa set Maidragon up for some fun characters in the future and I imagine we’ll ultimately be revisiting them about as often as we do Fafnir and Makoto. That being said, next week is apparently the beach episode so I think we expect further intermingling between the cast and hopefully get to flesh out the comedy of our most recent characters a bit more.

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