Weekly watch round up 2nd June

We’re into the last stretch of the Spring ’19 season now, which means some shows are heading towards their finale, while others are gearing up to move towards bigger things in upcoming seasons, and some shows are in some kind of mid-season holding place where I’ve no idea what’s coming next.

I haven’t written about ‘Kimetsu No Yaiba’ for a couple of weeks. That’s not because I’m not enjoying it – in any other season, it would probably be at the top of my list. It just isn’t gripping me the way some other shows are. Watching the most recent episode, and Tanjirou’s fight with the latest two demons (whose names I forget because I can’t find an up-to-date character/cast list!), there wasn’t a massive sense of threat. While the fight sequences are visually stunning and scored (more on that later) I get the impression that Tanjirou is already a master of his fighting style. I don’t feel like I’m watching a student who’s still learning, which is what I’d expect from such a young character; rather, because his training period was condensed to just one episode, it feels like he already has what he needs to come out on top of individual fights. He established so quickly what tactics his enemies were using, and thanks to some borrowed demon powers was able to overcome the biggest threat they posed. The concept of fighting something you can see but which isn’t tangible makes a good set-up for a fight, but I feel like Tanjirou figured out how to overcome the arrows too easily. I never felt like there was that much danger for Tanjirou himself. I haven’t read the manga, but I’m willing to guess that one of the two demons he’s trying to protect will be captured, making for the next stage of the plot, but I don’t feel like I should worry about Tanjirou or Nezuko at this stage, and that’s actually disappointing.

What I am impressed with this episode is the sound and score. The horrible squelching sound effects that come with a demon’s regeneration are wonderfully done, and the two musical pieces used for this week’s fight sequences were fantastic. The first orchestral piece, full of brass and percussion, was terrifically bombastic to the point that it almost felt wasted on the first half of the fight – it felt more like a ‘final fight’ piece. The pipe organ for the second half gave the scene more of an eerie note, which suited the idea of a fight where Tanjirou can’t see his opponent’s ‘weapon’. Coupled with the beautiful animation for Tanjirou’s water-style of swordsmanship, it did at least make the episode enjoyable from a visual perspective.

If I’m let down by anything so far in ‘Kimetsu No Yaiba’, it’s that the opening has teased us with characters we haven’t yet met. It gives the show a more comic feel than has been fully established yet, and if nothing else keeps me watching to find out who these mystery boys are.

Speaking of fights, ‘One Punch Man’ has finally reached the end of the Martial Arts Tournament section and is ready to shift into the real meat of this arc; the threat of both Garou and the Monster Association. I’m relieved, because I finally feel like the pace has picked up and we’re going to see more of Saitama and the more entertaining characters, particularly King and Sonic. This season has also been woefully lacking in Genos content, which is a shame as he’s as much a source of comedy as Saitama himself. The show is funniest, I think, when the two of them are together, and we get the contrast between earnest and serious Genos, and Saitama’s world-weary ennui.

The fight with Suiryu was mildly entertaining, as Saitama formed his final opinion on martial arts (“A way to move all cool-like!”) and took out Suiryu with an accidental hip-check. If anything, I feel that this is the only reason why the fight sequences need to look impressive in this show – because it’s all the more funny when Saitama ends them with just a wave of his hand.

The introduction of the monster cells was…well, pretty much the same as the manga. Maybe I’d have been a little bit more grossed out if I didn’t know about them already. For this seiyuu fan, it mostly meant another scene with Tsuda Kenjirou (*swoon*) as Atomic Samurai. I hope we get more of him too.

I’m actually looking forward to the next episode, and the return of Speed O’ Sound Sonic, another good source of comedy who hasn’t been given enough to do in this arc. The show is finally catching up with the current print manga releases, and at this point I don’t know how the arc ends, so maybe the final episodes of the season will be as much a surprise for me as for non-manga readers.

Episode eight of ‘Midnight Occult Civil Servants’ felt a little slow, although after wrapping up an unexpectedly dark mini-arc the previous week. I like the way this show is slowly building up its environment, giving us brief teasing glimpses of the Another community and how entrenched it is in the Shinjuku cityscape. It feels like it’s moving towards something big while still keeping the fun aspects of the ‘monster of the week format’. I’m also getting dodgy vibes from Senda, and feel like there’s more going on with him than we’ve been shown so far – the ‘enemy on the inside’ trope is a favourite of mine, I’ll admit. I feel like what the show lacks in character animation quality, it makes up for in background art; the city feels real and vibrant, and as much a part of the show as any of the humans or Anothers.

The scene in Seimei’s garden was beautifully melancholy, both with the flashbacks to Kohaku’s time with Seimei and his conversation with Arata, which was framed in such a romantic way that I’ll be disappointed if that romantic element isn’t developed in any way. I like the teasing hints about Seimei, and Arata’s unique position as someone who can understand the Anothers does put him at risk, as his colleagues point out, of becoming vulnerable to them since he doesn’t have the knowledge or power that Seimei apparently had.

There are only four episodes left of this series, so I’m curious to see how the season will wrap up. I’m hoping for something dark, particularly something that could set up a second season, as I think the setting alone provides a wealth of opportunity for more stories to tell.

This week’s ‘Fruits Basket’ didn’t give us much that the original had in terms of Hatsuharu’s first full episode. I think it was pretty much a shot-for-shot remake. Not that that was disappointing – Haru’s a fun character and his interactions with Tohru and the others are as entertaining as they were the first time around. Still, it does leave me with very little to say about the show this week. Still enjoying it, still feeling a wonderful nostalgia for the source material while appreciating the lush new art and animation (especially the smoke effect for the transformations!). I haven’t yet watched the dub of this episode – I get the feeling that Shigure’s ‘high school girls’ song will be every bit as skeevy as the first time around too (bless you, John Burgmeier!).

‘Fairy Gone’ still gives me mixed thoughts. There’s a lot to like about it, in terms of animation and intrigue, but it’s getting hard for me to keep track of characters and events. I don’t do well with stories with huge casts, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who I’m supposed to care about and who I’m supposed to dislike. I’ll stick with it to see where it leads, but at the moment it’s not a show I look forward to as much as most others on my list.

As for ‘Sarazanmai’, well. There’s the episode that ripped the fandom to shreds and laughed about it. I mean, I expected as much from this show; no character is going to leave the story entirely intact.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, we found out that Tooi and Kazuki had indeed met as younger kids, and Kazuki’s micanga took on an extra layer of significance. We also saw Chikai’s real nature when he used Enta as a human shield to escape Reo and Mabu – when Chikai tells his younger brother that “Just as you need me, I need you,” I get a really bad feeling. Something tells me Chikai taking his brother with him isn’t entirely for good reasons.

Given that this is my first time going into an Ikuhara show blind, as it were, I feel like I’m glad I took the time to read the accompanying manga (‘Reo and Mabu; Together They’re Sarazanmai’). Knowing the bond the two cops have makes their current descent into darkness so much more delicious, and Miyano Mamorou is doing his usual bang-up job of portraying both desperate sadness and manic nastiness.

For all that the fandom is tearing each other to pieces over which of the boys it’s okay to like, I think it’s important to remember that (a) it’s okay to enjoy watching a character whose motives and actions are selfish, and (b) no one in this show is entirely morally pure. Every single person has done things that could be deemed ‘bad’, whether it’s Kazuki ignoring Enta’s feelings for him, Enta’s lies and selfish actions in trashing the football spot and stealing the dishes, Tooi being an actual criminal in order to keep up with a brother who likely doesn’t care for him as much as Tooi thinks he does, or Reo and Mabu actually killing people.

Let’s remember that – so many of the fans currently dumping on Enta for being a manipulative liar are the same ones drooling over the hot gay cops who commit actual murders on a weekly basis. Also, Reo is kind of a dick to Mabu (“Look at this half-baked doll so eager to please those people!”). And let’s appreciate, also, that the kid who was waterboarding people a few weeks ago is currently the most likeable of the three boys for actually at least caring about both of them as he’s preparing to leave.

I think characters doing things that are debatable levels of ‘bad’ is actually a major theme in the show, so debating who’s the worst is kind of pointless. Twice now one of the younger characters has asked one of the adults if they’ve done something “bad” (first Haruka asks Reo if he’s been a “bad boy”, then Enta asks Chikai if he’s “done something bad”). I said a few weeks ago that the show was, in some aspects, a sexual awakening for the three boys, but I feel like it’s more about them stepping over the threshold into adulthood (very early, but still) as they recognise that the childish bad things they’ve done are relatively mild compared to the bad things adults do. Enta and Kazuki have fallen out over relatively minor things – lies and hurt feelings – while Tooi, who was thrust into the very adult criminal world so early that he doesn’t see it as anything out of the ordinary, is actually learning the importance of childhood things like having close friends and doing fun things like playing football. It’s the adult characters who do the thoroughly rotten things – organised crime and actual murder (as opposed to Tooi’s killing out of self-defense/protecting his brother).

Where, a few weeks ago, I loved how much this fandom was so intent on solving the mysteries of the plot, now I actively take a step back from the fandom debates and arguments. Really, folks, there are no moral absolutes with this show. Everyone is problematic and likeable at the same time. If they weren’t, there’d be no story to tell. So how about we calm the flip down and enjoy the last three episodes of the show?

We’re at a very interesting stage in the plot, where our protagonists are separated (possibly permanently!) while our antagonists have possibly got their hands on what they need to reach their goal. With only three episodes left, I am loving this show more than ever. Shame about the fandom.

I think soon I’ll be putting together my watch-list for the Summer season. Do let me know if anything’s already caught your eye.

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