All things considered, this was a pretty big week for some of this season’s front runners. Rakugo Shinjuu delivers on yet another emotionally climactic episode, 3-gatsu sees the Lion King Tournament come to a dramatic and sentimental close, and ACCA pulls back the veil and reveals some of its innermost workings which have remained hidden for so long. Little Witch Academia felt a little too ‘by the book’ this week and Tales of Zestiria managed to walk itself in circles with a ‘calm before the storm’ episode, further exacerbating its erratic pacing as it heads into its finale.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen
Given the progression of the latest episodes and the recent developments involving Yakumo, the story seemed to be building towards an inevitable and fatalistic tragedy. In rare fashion, episode 9 sported two rakugo performances and though Yamumo’s story he tells to the prisoner’s is a touching one, it almost pales in comparison to his latter performance. It was endowed with all of the visual details which mark some of the show’s best performances. The sheer degree of meaning attached to the story and the character lent the performance a poignant and tragic beauty almost unmatched even in other episodes of the show.
Many of the show’s most imperative themes, visuals, and locations came together in this episode. The performance in the prison contrasting with Yakumo’s original Shinigami which inspired Yataro to pursue rakugo. The burning of the theater, a well-established allegory for both rakugo and Yakumo himself. Yakumo’s final performance of Shinigami, one of the most important stories in the show and one which he performed selfishly and for himself. And lastly, Yotaro’s outstretched hand – a symbolic gesture indicative of all of the people reaching out to Yakumo over the past few episodes and one which recalls some of the opening’s most striking, symbolic visuals. After a brilliant performance and an emotional culmination, both Yakumo and Rakugo Shinjuu endure and continue on into the future as the show approaches its ending in exceptionally impressive fashion.
3-gatsu no Lion (March comes in like a lion)
After a handful of episodes, it seems our journey alongside Shimada may have come to an end. He’s been a really interesting character to follow and though it means we had to put Rei’s own story on hold for a while, Shimada’s vulnerability and endearing qualities were welcome additions to the show. The opening sequence of this episode which detailed the life he could have led served as a great sentimental capstone to these past few episodes which focused on Shimada’s recognition of his choices and the regrets he may have had. Rather than the affectionate nature of the dream, it was Shimada’s own conflict between the two realities before him which made the scene so captivating. Even when immersed in the idealism of his dream did he feel the pangs of regret and loss, leading him to the conclusion that he could not decide which reality was more nightmarish.
Though we don’t recieve any direct insight into Souya this episode, the circumstances surrounding the final game of the tournament speak to the warped perception of the players and Souya’s own imperfect nature. The players, including Shimada, were unable to see past his overwhelming presence. They saw the perfection they expected to see rather than a human being as susceptible to defeat and error as anyone else. It was a wonderful and thoughtful commentary on the way in which Souya is perceived. With only two episodes remaining, it’s hard to say where the show will go from here though its finale likely promises to be unconventional. I imagine we’ll at last revisit the Kawamoto sisters before the end and allow Rei some temporary closure.
ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (ACCA: 13th Territory Inspection Department)
I have to imagine that this was about as suspenseful of an episode as ACCA will ever have though it’s ultimate conclusion still lies ahead so perhaps saying so is shortsighted. We had a chase sequence, a few dangerous situations, and some pretty big power plays featured this week as the curtain falls away. Jean’s matter-of-fact dialogue with the representatives of Peshi speaks to both the change in the political atmosphere as well as the show itself. Chief Oulu’s intervention into Lotta and Rail’s abduction may be an indicator that he knows more than he lets on and the episode concludes with one of the most intense character interactions in the entire show.
Little Witch Academia
Coming off of a pretty crazy and inventive episode last week, this week’s Little Witch Academia felt a little plain even outside of the comparison. It followed show’s format exceedingly closely wherein Akko and her friends do something they shouldn’t, the endeavor to fix their mistake or overcome a particular hurdle, and then learn something in the end before being saddled with yet another mundane punishment. The formula itself is pretty fun most often and it’s not the episodes over-adherence to it which makes it a little dull but rather the kind of aimless way each scene slips into the next. Our trio of witches desperately follow a raving skeletal lunatic from one location to the next purely for the sake of falling into various comedic scenarios. There isn’t much significance to it and with only the repeated, zany ramblings of the skeleton to go on, I feel like this episode starves the audience for substance until the very end.
It’s not a bad episode and the ending, though predictable, offers some sentimental closure. It’s nice that we have side-characters like the headmistress getting a little characterization but when so many members of the immediate cast have yet to receive their own insights like Amanda, Constanze, and Diana, it feels a little distracted. Given her role in the original movies, I’m surprised by Diana’s lack of presence in the show thus far as she’s always been one of the more central characters of the show.