Happy September, folks! I am so pleased that autumn is finally on its way – today I got to pick blackberries and apples, so I’m looking forward to some autumnal baking tomorrow.
Watch-wise, it feels like everything is full of anticipation too, as shows take a final moment to breathe before moving into their end-of-season arcs (can you believe the Fall anime season is almost here already?). Which means that nothing particularly stood out as being amazing, but nothing felt like a low point either. So this week’s round-up is tough to sort into top, middle and bottom-tier shows like I’ve been doing lately. Instead, let’s just look at the latest episodes in order of airing.
To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts was back to its usual could-be-better standard. Almost a full week has passed and I’ve had to check an episode guide to remind myself what happened, which is indicative of how lacklustre an episode it was. It’s such a shame, because every so often this anime has moments of brilliance when it actually makes me care about the characters, but those moments are so few and far between. Monster-of-the-week Garm (and once again, seiyuu Suzuki Tatsuhisa is woefully under-utilised here) couldn’t seem to settle on whether he wanted to kill Hank or have him embrace his Incarnate-powers and cross over to the dark side. Claude could be interesting if we could learn more about his relationship with his brother Cain – has he at some point in the past dreamt of saving his brother, the way Schaal did for her father and the others? I could do without Liza, as much because of her insubordination as for her perv-pandering character design. Military officers do not treat their superiors the way she does Claude, and while I am willing to suspend enough belief to watch people transform into monsters, there are some things I can’t let slide.
We have three episodes left, so I assume we’re moving towards a big showdown between Hank, Cain, Schaal and Claude, who are all as established as the show seems to allow, so I’m assuming that from here onward it will be all action. It’s possible that the show will pull off something special before the end of the month, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
Cop Craft was…interesting. I honestly don’t know how to feel about the whole Tilarna-cat-bodyswap plotline. I’m relieved that they didn’t go overboard with having cat-Tilarna climbing into Matoba’s bed, and I get that Tilarna, as a proud character of noble birth, is better suited to being put into embarrassing situations, but she’s also a young woman, barely an adult, so it’s still uncomfortable to watch her crawling around in her underwear and using a litter-box. Thankfully, most of the episode focused on Tilarna in the cat’s body, who is at least smart enough to figure out she can communicate via text messages. The fact that next week’s episode will no doubt involve Cecil and Tilarna chasing down a garbage truck only cements the notion that this show is Due South: The Anime – I’m fairly certain that exact plot was used for an episode of DS, if for slightly different reasons than looking for a magical crossbow. [Note – a quick check tells me that no, that isn’t the case, although Fraser and RayV did dumpster-dive for evidence one time.]
In case I hadn’t already mentioned it, I am living for Tsuda Kenjirou’s acting in this show – I love how he’s able to handle the serious stuff, the light-hearted moments and the exasperation of Matoba’s situation, and there were moments in this week’s episode where I had to pause and replay just to listen to the delivery of certain lines. He has a sort of naturalism in his delivery that not many voice-actors have, which is most noticeable when Matoba makes a quick joke or tries to brush off another character’s seriousness or scolding. His versatility really does deserve appreciation.
Thursday brought Carole and Tuesday, and it was fun to get back to the main plot and see our leads performing again. I’ve enjoyed all the festival episodes, largely for actually capturing some of the atmosphere of evening headline shows at summer festivals. After seeing Carole and Tuesday’s efforts to add some sparkle to their performance, I loved the end result, stripped back to bare bones to focus on their music and their voices to create a song that properly wowed their audience.
I’m hoping we learn a little more about the guy who’s been stalking Angela – if that’s the way that plot line gets wrapped up then I’ll be disappointed. It was fun to see Tao show at least a little humanity in his preventing the stalker actually getting to Angela, but the moment was somewhat overshadowed by her performance with Ertegun.
If I’m worried about anything at this point, it’s that the show seems to have introduced yet another character who might be an obstacle to Carole and Tuesday’s relationship, in the guy Carole supposedly recognised at the festival. We still have maybe half a dozen episodes left yet, and by now the show should feel like it’s building towards something solid (presumably the legendary concert described in the opening narration) but I still feel like there’s some work to be done yet before we can see exactly what we’re headed towards.
Now that Netflix have finally added the first half of the show, I’m going to set some time aside to check out the English dub. I haven’t seen the dub cast list yet, so I’m assuming there won’t be any big VAs involved, but I’m curious to see how good the dub is.
Also on Thursday we had Given, and the live gig actually feels like it’s come around a little quickly, since Mafuyu hasn’t even produced any song lyrics yet. Our glimpses into Mafuyu’s grief have been nicely understated so far, avoiding melodrama or all-out tear-fests. I do appreciate the way the show tells us about characters from other characters’ perspectives, like this week’s flashback to Mafuyu’s past via his old friend, and I think that helps to keep the exposition succinct rather than flooded with emotion, the way that ‘Fruits Basket’ occasionally does (not that that’s a bad thing, but I think ‘Given’ benefits from subtlety, given the slow-burn nature of the plot development).
Since this story moves at such a sedate pace, it still feels like not a lot actually happens in each episode, but that works in this case, as we get to dwell on those little moments of insight and gentle feelings.
Going into the gig without Mafuyu’s song actually feels like the biggest bit of drama we’ve had so far, but at the same time the show has never felt like it was lacking anything. We still have four episodes to go, and I’m going to savour every one of them.
Friday was for Fruits Basket, and another episode not based on the original series. I was slightly disappointed that we didn’t get the episode set in Ayame’s shop, like I incorrectly guessed after last week’s tag, but I understand the importance of another episode focusing on Tohru’s friends and why she’s so important to them. Practically every Furuba character’s backstory involves either bullying or abandonment, which for me makes them difficult to watch, and this one was especially tough since I wasn’t prepared for it. But part of what makes Furuba so special is that it reminds us that our painful memories make us the people we are today, and that with enough support, we can learn to accept ourselves and become stronger.
Hana’s backstory, in which she was bullied as a child for supposedly having the power to hurt others, felt like it was handled with sensitivity. The depictions of school bullying felt realistic without being over-the-top, but thankfully this time Hana’s parents were apparently making amends for every other crappy parent in this story by being wonderfully supportive, offering the first ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak episode. I enjoyed the way Arisa and Tohru helped Hana take ownership of her weirdness, admitting that people said similar things about them – Tohru basically collects outcasts and that’s pretty much the whole show.
It all ended on a positive note, but then we got the post-credits tag, soon followed by an ominous tweet from Kyo’s English VA, Jerry Jewell.
If you’ve read the manga or seen the original anime, you know what’s likely going to happen in next week’s episode. If you haven’t and are going into this anime blind, then…just…have tissues and a supportive friend on hand.
Personally, I am not prepared at all.
I’m finally all caught up with Vinland Saga, and rather like with ‘Given’, I feel like we’re learning about Thorfinn as much from the other characters as from the boy himself. It does hurt to see Askeladd and his men still so dismissive of this boy who’s stuck with them for what must be several years now, being instrumental in many of their victories. The battle of London Bridge, and Thorfinn’s fight with Thorkell, was an interesting watch, although personally I enjoyed Thorfinn’s duel with Askeladd more, as we got to see just how much his abilities have developed over the years, and how much some of the others have actually started to respect Thorfinn, even if they don’t say so much out loud.
Again, it’s a slow-burner of a plot, with a long way still to go, but now we have at least had glimpses of Canute, another major player in the story.
Beyond anime, I watched the first episode of The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance this week. I’ll be honest: I was never that big a fan of the film, even though I’ve seen it a couple of times. I don’t know if it was something about the puppets, or the high fantasy genre in general. Still, it’s clear that the series is a phenomenal artistic feat, and it does at least look amazing. The cast is top-tier as well, and it’s worth watching for the novelty of the puppetry and practical effects, if nothing else.
Episodes are all at least 45 minutes long, so it’s not easily bingeable, but it feels like it will be a good show to dip into once or twice a week.
How do you feel about this week’s episodes? Have you watched The Dark Crystal yet? Do you have shows picked out for Fall ’19? Feel free to share in the comments!