Hey look, it’s another week of me actually being caught up on all of the shows I’m watching. Rakugo Shinjuu, 3-gatsu no Lion, and Little Witch Academia were certainly the high-points of the week though ACCA had a particularly strong episode as well. Kobayashi-san managed to combine the philosophical introspection of human ephemerality along with the passionate sentimentality of loving something in the moment with its bathing suit episode. So that was impressive and pretty demonstrative of the show’s dual appeals.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
It’s becoming far too easy to take for granted but Rakugo Shinjuu seems to be piling on incredible episode after incredible episode, one after another, every week. Just last week, for the first time, we revisited one of the most tragic and powerful scenes of the first season as well as one of its most emotional performances. To then see Shibahama appear once again only one episode later performed by Yotaro really spoke to the show’s brand of sentimentality and history. Rather than attempting to wrap the viewer up in the fervor and comedy of the story through bombastic jazz melodies, the presentation of Yotaro’s Shibahama was accompanied by a wistful and meandering piano tune. This, along with the appearance of all of Yakumo’s friends who sought to support and acknowledge him, made for a rather affectionate and heartbreaking episode.
3-gatsu no Lion (March comes in like a lion)
Last week’s episode of 3-gatsu, despite its fantastic quality, left me wanting to know more about Shimada and his hometown and episode 20 more than sated my curiosity. From the viewer’s perspective, Shimada has come a long way since he once appeared as a faceless opponent across from Rei. He received a lot of great, meaningful insight this episode which not only better contextualized the 4th and possibly final game of the tournament but further spoke to Shimada’s own vulnerability and determination. We have yet to see any of the tournament games actually play out however, now that we’ve set the stage a bit and there are only 2 episodes remaining, I’m looking forward to 3-gatsu bringing it all together in the coming weeks.
ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (ACCA: 13th Territory Inspection Department)
This episode went about as one might have expected after last week’s conclusion but its predictable nature didn’t stop it from being both insightful and touching. It was quite an endearing process to watch Schnee, Jean, and Lotta’s growth through the lens of Nino and his father’s relationship. There was some great use of color this week as well which mirrored the heartfelt and easygoing atmosphere of the story and made the episode’s inevitable conclusion all the more hard-hitting. The warm and comforting colors which permeated the bulk of its run became drained, the show’s tragedy punctuated by blacks, blues, and grays. I’m uncertain why Abend’s identity has been handled the way it has and I’m unsure what the point would be of using Grossular as a red herring however I suppose we’ll just have to see. Though it didn’t do much to further the plot at hand, I’d have to say that, between the insight gained and the pleasant atmosphere, this one might have been my favorite yet.
Little Witch Academia
Between the dream-sequence premise and Imaishi himself working on the storyboard, episode 8 had all of the makings of being one of the most fun and inventive episodes yet and I’d say it succeeded. After a couple of episodes focused on further developing Akko, it was a nice change of pace to once again take the time to further flesh out one of her friends. Unlike Lotte, Sucy is a bit more one-dimensional in her personality and brand of comedy and so an entire episode dedicated to investigating her might seem weird but it turned out to be a lot of fun.
There’s a ton to take away from this episode. The fantastic animation. The myriad of references ranging from Akira and Luluco to Sleeping Beauty and LWA itself. The western-style, 1920’s cartoon clips animated in 24 fps. The surreal, mushroom-filled dreamscape within which it all unfolds. Episode 8 had a lot going on but it never felt like it got in the way of Akko’s journey and the episode wasn’t devoid of true insight into Sucy herself. Through the depiction of her different personalities and impulses and the drive-in movie sequence, you do gain a genuine feeling that Sucy cares for Akko and her friends despite her wicked antics. Simultaneously, the episode did a good job of highlighting Akko’s own strengths and her relationship with her friend. Very entertaining episode.
Tales of Zestiria the X
I don’t usually write anything weekly about Zestiria but this week’s episode had a few issues – some old and some new. It had the unique feeling of feeling both unbearably slow for the first half of the episode and then rushed near its conclusion. Despite setting up Alisha’s infiltration into the kingdom, it takes her half of the episode to reach her destination despite the only notable cutaways being Sorey and company playing storm chasers. Her confrontation with her father and Bartlow unfolds in a surprisingly bland and unemotional way before we at last cut to Sorey who manages to bring down the dragon with a single shot. Sorey and his allies then defeat the dragon by screaming collectively at it and the whole experience was supposedly emblematic of a giant step forward for Sorey as a Shepherd.
We’re two-thirds through the season now and with only 4 episodes remaining, you’d think we’d have made more headway by now but instead the show drags its feet early on and finishes out the episode with a rather hasty climax. ufotable’s visuals and special effects have served as the show’s sole redeeming factor since its beginning and so its surprising that this week’s episode looked as unpolished as it did. The fire and smoke effects seemed blurrier and less refined, the brief fight sequences were underwhelming, and some of the audio didn’t fit the scene such as the arrow sound effects and the insert song. I don’t think its indicative of anything and I’m sure ufotable will return to their spectacular quality next week but these things didn’t help support an already uneventful episode.