Content note: contains mild spoilers for the latest episodes of ‘Sarazanmai’, ‘One Punch Man’, ‘RobiHachi’, ‘Fruits Basket’, ‘Carole & Tuesday’ and ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’
Last week felt like a bit of a personal stress-marathon, what with prepping for YCC, prepping for a ‘My Hero Academia’ fic week I’m running, and various bits of offline personal stuff. So with most of that out of the way, you’d think I’d be all set to catch up with my shows.
But no. Somehow most episodes this week still took me a little time and effort to get around to watching.
About the only show I still had to watch as soon as possible was ‘Sarazanmai’. Honestly, sometimes that show is what gets me through the week, because each episode still feels like a wonderful, awful surprise. Episode seven, following on from a rather satisfying round-up of Kazuki’s personal conflict with his brother, gave us more insight into Reo and Mabu and their current relationship. Honestly, I’m having a bit of a hard time trying to get their timeline straight; I’m not entirely sure where the events of episode six’s flashback sequence fits in with the manga, when they still apparently had a healthy relationship. My best guess is that their raising Sara put them in good stead with the Kappa kingdom, which presumably runs on a different calendar to the human world, meaning that their time as royal guards came after that but before the events of their Twitter timeline. We’ve assumed, until now, that they were aligned with the Otter kingdom, but I think it looks more like they were initially Kappa guards who ended up serving the Otters since the Otters effectively saved them from Keppi’s darkness-explosion, and now they’re bound to serve the Otters in order to keep Mabu alive and for Reo to have any hope of getting back the Mabu he feels he’s lost.
Well. That was a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever have to write.
The speculation after episode seven was honestly more than I could keep up with, so I’ve had a few days of feeling a little distant from the fandom. But I do read all your posts and I try to keep an eye on Twitter updates too.
Personally, I worry a little about how fandom has reacted to the reveal about Enta being the one to vandalise their football spot. There’s talk of Enta being framed as a villain, and of him being a creep and a manipulative liar, and honestly I’m feeling a little tired of this obsession with characters being unproblematic in order to be likeable. Enta is a thirteen-year-old with a crush. A crush on another boy, at that. Thirteen-year-olds are dumbasses. When you’re a teenager with a crush, it’s the most important thing in the world to you, because when you’ve only lived for a few years, it probably is the biggest, most difficult thing you’ve ever had to deal with. When your only experience of relationships and love have probably come from movies and TV, where everything is exaggerated, love and crushes feel monumental. So you’ll do dumb things and you’ll feel like your world is ending if your crush wants to spend time with someone else. Enta has spent years thinking he’s Kazuki’s most important person, the other half of the Golden Duo, and now he’s found out that not only has Kazuki sacrificed that for Haruka, but now he wants to spend time with another boy. Enta views Tooi as a rival for Kazuki’s affections, but also knows that he can’t exclude Tooi because that would upset Kazuki. He’s doing what he thinks will win him Kazuki’s approval, while at the same time trying to earn more of Kazuki’s time and attention. But he’s thirteen and doesn’t know any better so he’s going about it in a dumbass way. If you can still like Kazuki after he stole someone’s pet and mutilated its ear, and if you can still like Tooi knowing he’s a criminal who has threatened people with a blade and an actual gun, then it’s weird to dismiss Enta for a few lies and some mild vandalism.
I also worry that Enta’s crush makes him the most at risk for a desire extraction before the end of the series. Both Kazuki and Tooi’s actions are done out of love for a sibling, but Enta’s actions are partly out of pubescent desire – hence the sweater-sniffing and recorder-sucking. Speaking of which, people are still complaining about that secret-reveal. Look, the creators had a few seconds to give us a dialogue-free scene to show that Enta had a crush. How else would they have done it? Longing looks could have been dismissed as just Enta missing Kazuki’s friendship. The actions had to have had a sexual connotation to them. We saw, with ‘Yuuri On Ice’, that romantic actions can be dismissed by some viewers as platonic. This show is giving us explicit visual confirmation of a boy’s attraction to another boy, and now people are complaining that it’s problematic. I don’t usually like to use this blog to shout at people, but please, make up your minds! How would you show, without dialogue and in just ten seconds, that a teenage boy has a crush on another boy?
Okay. Before this turns into a Sarazanmai-only blog, I’m going to wrap up this section by saying that, obviously I can’t wait for episode eight. I haven’t seen a preview, as yet, but I do so want more of Mabu’s quest to become Reo’s object of desire again. Keppi cavorting around town with Sara was a delight, although I wish we’d seen when and how they actually reunited. I like the mystery surrounding Sara and who or what she actually is, and I am intrigued by the way the kappa zombies’ fetishes are becoming increasingly sexual. I think the story is in part a sexual awakening for the boys – how much longer can they keep dismissing what they’ve seen as ‘wanting to turn into a football so his girlfriend will kick him’? Previous Ikuhara shows have had similar themes – Utena considering ‘adult’ relationships with Anthy and Akio, and whatever the hell was going on in ‘Yuri Kuma Arashi’. I will honestly be gutted when this series ends, because it has been seven delightful episodes and the remaining five feel like nowhere near enough.
I still have mixed feelings about ‘One Punch Man’. I picked up volume 16 of the manga this week, and I’ve been trying to rethink what the story is meant to tell us. With the Monster Association arc and the threat from Garo, I feel like we’ve lost touch with Saitama’s personal story, which is his desperation to feel something now that his powers have eliminated every sense of struggle and difficulty. As he breezes through every stage of the martial arts tournament, the anime has kind of glossed over why he’s there: to learn about how other people fight, in an attempt to make his own fights more interesting. The fight against Suiryu did remind us somewhat of that, as Saitama was this week given a little more time to study an opponent instead of doing his usual one-hit take-down. I’m hoping that the next episode will show us more of his internal ennui, because otherwise the end of the tournament will feel as much of a let-down for the viewer as it does for Saitama.
Sometimes I feel like, because this show is marketed as being all about the fights, we forget that Saitama doesn’t get the same thrill or sense of danger from them as a protagonist in any other fight-focused story would. While we’ve all been ranting over the change of style for the fight sequences, perhaps we’ve missed the point somewhat. The fights are exciting for everyone except Saitama. He’s spent a series and a half developing personal relationships – remember he was all alone at the start of the story, compared to now, and his friendships with Genos, Fubuki and King – and I hope the anime can find a way to bring us back to that aspect of the story before we get too caught up in whether or not the fights are up to scratch.
We finally got to see the monster cells, and that means it won’t be long before we see Sonic again, who is usually reliable for a decent bit of comic relief, especially because in any other shounen show that wouldn’t be his role at all. With OPM, it’s the plucky underpowered side-characters who give us the heart and soul of the story, and the high-powered villains and vigilantes who end up playing the fool to Saitama’s ridiculous strength.
Speaking of powers and fights, ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure’ has been a fun ride these past few weeks. Compared with ‘Diamond Is Unbreakable’, which played around with several characters using their stands for things other than trying to kill the protagonists, this series has been non-stop life-or-death fights. I long ago gave up on trying to make sense of the fight scenes or predict how characters would use their stands, so the latest round with Cioccolata and Secco has actually felt like a light reprieve in that respect. With fewer mindscrews and more straight-forward stand attacks, it’s been a little easier to sit back and watch the action unfold, with a clearer sense of who’s currently on top.
Sex Pistols seems to be a very divisive stand in terms of fan reactions. Personally I think those little guys great – it’s honestly fun watching a stand with a higher degree of sentience that can act more independently of its user. A show like JJBA needs a sense of fun, otherwise it would never get away with half the stuff it does.
I’m also appreciative of the increased body horror in this series. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but the latest episode’s sequence with Cioccolata reduced to just a torso with a trailing spine still managed to come as something of a surprise, even for a show that last week had a character disintegrate after jumping over a balcony. And while I’m not a fan of queer-baiting, that one shot of Giorno helping Mista aim a shot with a hand on his waist was something to behold. Perhaps making up for the unfortunate number of queer villains we’ve been given this season?
Finally, kudos to the manufacturers of Mista’s sweater – that thing is still intact despite the number of times Mista has been shot, when it really out to look like a colander at this point.
And speaking of queer-baiting, this week’s ‘RobiHachi’ upped the ante with the titular heroes ending an episode with some sort of symbolic wedding. This show has been a lot of fun, so I can forgive the ship-teasing with both Robby/Hachi and Yang/Robby. I don’t feel like it’s especially mocking or mean-spirited with Robby and Hachi – more like ‘isn’t it funny that they ended up stumbling into someone else’s wedding’ than ‘isn’t it funny to think they look like a couple’. As for Yang’s obsession with Robby…well, we’ll have to wait and see with that one.
‘Carole & Tuesday’ continues much the same, in that I’m still loving it for its depictions of positive female friendship (and possibly a romance that isn’t based on lust?), and for depictions of the struggle to make it in show-business. I like that the characters are facing real set-backs and aren’t immediately loved by everyone who sees them perform. The festival episode also showed us a little bit more of the in-universe music scene. Crystal was an absolute delight, and I hope we see more of her. I’m confused about the casting of Yasumoto Hiroki as a Hendrix-style musician who sings falsetto – I don’t buy the contrast between his speaking voice and singing voice, which is a shame because I would happily listen to Yasumoto read the phone book (I do sometimes listen to his radio show with Hosoyan when I can’t sleep!).
We saw a little more of Angela too, and I desperately want to know more about her mother, because the glimpses we’ve seen are teasing at something that could be interesting or could be unpleasantly offensive. I know some people have complained about some of the song lyrics being a little bland in this show, but I think in most cases that’s intentional – this is, after all, a world in which most popular music is created by AI based on what’s already proven popular. Carole and Tuesday are creating original works based on their own lives, and I personally like their songs about everyday life and the little things they experience as opposed to the general vague pleasantries of the other musicians we’ve heard.
I want to wrap up with ‘Fruits Basket’, since that’s been the hardest show for me to watch the last few weeks. Not because there’s anything wrong with the show itself – quite the opposite – but because I already know how overwhelmingly emotional the story gets, even in the first half of the season, and sometimes it’s a struggle to prepare myself for what I know will happen.
If you’re wondering why a story that’s supposed to be uplifting affects me so much, it’s because this show comes with a lot of baggage for me; memories of the ex who recommended it to me about 18 years ago, memories of another relationship where I watched the show with my then-partner, and memories of school bullying and family trauma. I don’t know what it says about me that I willingly go back to a show that I know will make me cry almost every episode; I want to say that it’s proof of the quality of the story-telling but there’s probably a little masochism on my part too.
I’m pleased that the episode with Uo and Hana visiting Shigure’s house was cut short and we didn’t get a full 20-minute hide-the-transformations farce like in the original. So far, I think the show is doing an excellent job of condensing the necessary points and adding in helpful new scenes which explore the characters and give us little tidbits of information that add to our understanding and appreciation. I’m not sure how I feel about seeing Hatsuharu before he turns up at the long-distance run – for new viewers, I feel bad that they’re missing out on the arrival of someone with a little mystery. The New Year episode was otherwise a beautiful one, both in terms of animation and in showing us what kind of person Tohru is – someone who always puts others first even when it causes her pain, and someone who still smiles because she feels everyone else’s happiness is worth it.
Story-wise, we’ve still only covered about two volumes of the manga. It honestly feels a little overwhelming to know just how much more plot is still to come. Maybe soon I’ll re-read the whole manga so I can give a more informed comparison of the two.
I think my watch round-ups are going to have to become a twice-weekly thing, since I still haven’t covered ‘Midnight Occult Civil Servants’, ‘Kimetsu No Yaiba’ or ‘Fairy Gone’. I usually watch those three on Mondays or Tuesdays, as I’m watching them with a friend, so maybe look for a mid-week update once I’m up to speed on those.
We’re past the half-way point in the Spring ’19 season – how are you feeling about this season’s shows? Have you given up on any of them? Changed your mind about a show or been pleasantly surprised by something? Tell me in the comments! Don’t forget, you can find me on Twitter @oldanimefan or on Tumblr @fanofacertainage.