Weekly Watch Round-Up September 8th

What a week! As the weather finally turns towards autumn, we’re into the last stretch of the Summer ’19 anime season, and most shows are starting to feel like they’re coming to an end.

To The Abandoned Sacred Beasts feels like it’s trying so hard, and I do want to give it credit for giving us Schaal, a watchable female character who gets to be strong without being overpowered or unnecessarily brutal, morally upstanding without being preachy, and who gets to have an interesting emotional journey that isn’t sappy and which doesn’t make her seem weak to everyone else. More female characters like her, please!

It’s a shame Hank hasn’t learnt from her sooner and taken the time to stop and listen to the Incarnates he’s been hunting down. Especially as he’s now the target for Claude’s Coup de Grace squadron – I want to see Hank experiencing that same conflict from the other side, but I suspect his only claim to his ‘humanity’ is his need to wipe out the other Incarnates, rather than feeling any desire to hold on to his life as an actual person.

With just two episodes left, I suspect all that’s remaining is a final showdown with Cain. I’m not expecting any major surprises from the ending, but I can at least hope for a little more exploration of Hank beyond his Incarnate-hunting desires (and some more from Sugita Tomokazu’s centaur, because he’s had like three lines so far and that’s nowhere near enough!).

Due South – sorry, Cop Craft – wrapped up its Tilarna bodyswap arc rather quickly, albeit with minimal embarrassing perv-pandering. Although the dumpster-diving Macguffin search wasn’t exactly deep, I didn’t feel a major sense of urgency from the way it played out. For an episode that put Tilarna at the centre with Matoba off doing basic cop stuff, I don’t think we learned much about her as a character, which is a real shame – there’s a huge potential to explore her isolation and continuing adjustment to her new world, and instead we got comedic filler that placed her as the butt of the joke.

In an odd pacing choice, the case wrapped up mid-episode before moving on completely to Tilarna and Matoba taking a much-needed break for a barbecue, although with more perv-pandering as Tilarna went out to investigate a politically motivated killing with just a jacket over her swimsuit. The new case is an interesting one, so I hope Tilarna gets chance to go home and get dressed before continuing the investigation.

With nothing to watch on Tuesday or Wednesday, I had ample time to prepare myself for two-show Thursday. Carole and Tuesday stepped up Tao’s cyber-punk side-story – I want to know more about his research! I love these subtle sci-fi aspects to the story, and the way the show’s writers are fleshing out this world with tech and politics as much as they are with music and people.

Rapper Ezekiel, who of course turned out to be Carole’s long-lost friend, gave a biting insight to the political climate on Mars which so far we’ve only seen from Carole’s mother’s point of view. This show hits so many notes in terms of representation, current affairs and technology development, and it deserves recognition for those just as much for its portrayal of queer characters and relationships.

It reminds me, just a little, of what ‘Dramatical Murder’ was trying to achieve with its world-building. The thing I enjoyed about the game’s anime adaptation was the way it shifted the focus to technology and politics, and I like the way ‘Carole and Tuesday’, with its longer run, is able to develop those aspects of its story in much more depth. There really is so much going on here that everything feels like a treat.

Of course, we are nearing the end of the run, and presumably building up to this mythical performance Gus’s intro tells us about each week. Honestly, there are so many ways this show could build to a satisfactory ending, and I’m confident that all of its plot threads will be well wrapped up. My only worry is what I’ll do when the show ends. It hasn’t had the huge impact that ‘Sarazanmai’ did last season, but I feel like this show has already earned its place in anime history.

And after that, there was Given. Oh boy, did that episode deliver. Mafuyu finally and unexpectedly revealing his song wasn’t a total surprise (how convenient that the previous band left the mic set up, and how lucky that there was no need for a level check or for Mafuyu to adjust the stand or warm up his voice and can you tell I’m picky about details when it comes to stuff like this?). I had to rewatch the song a couple of times afterwards to be able to focus on his lyrics, because the first time through the visuals and his inner monologue distracted me.

What we got was a satisfactory and powerful insight into the feelings Mafuyu’s been struggling with all this time – his inability to process the loss and his frustration in being unable to express it until now. The vocal performance was rough and unpolished, not nearly as pretty as his humming had suggested, but that was entirely appropriate for the song, for the raw outpouring of grief which culminated in a literal scream into the mic before Mafuyu’s whispered ‘I miss you’.

Someone on Twitter said they felt like Mafuyu saw something of Yuki in Uenoyama, but I don’t think that’s the case. I appreciated Mafuyu’s admission that he has “someone new” he’s in love with, and wondered if perhaps part of what Mafuyu’s been struggling with is his recent interest in someone else, as if liking someone again means finally moving on from Yuki’s death.

And of course, that kiss. I like that it wasn’t the focus of the episode and that it wasn’t a ‘let’s slow down reality for a whole minute and have everyone gasp in shock’ moment, but more about Uenoyama just going with his feelings in the moment before allowing Mafuyu some time alone before rejoining the others on stage. It was just there, without being sensationalised, and it fit the mood of the moment.

I think we have three more episodes left yet, so there’s still time to see them adjust to this change in their relationship, and possibly to get some resolution to Haruki’s unrequited love for Akihiko. I’m hoping for a little romance and just seeing the band hanging out together as friends – this anime has a lovely softness to it, and I want it to end that way too.

Fruits Basket, once Tohru had recovered from her brief cold, brought rain, and anyone who’s seen the original no doubt had the same reaction as me to the sight of Tohru, Yuki and Kyo standing under their umbrellas.

This is the start of something big.

I honestly can’t say much about it other than I was on edge the whole episode. Partly because there wasn’t really anything in the episode that was new (other than Tohru once again holding that hat), and partly because spoilers. I know there are people going into this story blind, with only Kagura’s hints about Kyo to go on. Kazuma’s arrival was unexpected (to those who haven’t seen the original) and probably looked ominous – he watched the three leads from a distance, face half-hidden under his umbrella. And of course, he arrived during bad weather. Pathetic fallacy is rarely subtle.

There is a lot I want to say about this episode, but it’s impossible without spoilers. Just…lots of little bits of foreshadowing, from Kyo becoming weak in the rain and Tohru’s suggestion for how to get him home, to Kagura at the grocery store, and the change in weather.

Just…make sure you have tissues on hand for the next couple of episodes. And possibly a supportive friend to comfort you through it. It gets rough.

There was no ‘Vinland Saga’ this week, and it probably says something about Netflix’s ‘Dark Crystal’ series that I haven’t felt any great urge to watch another episode.

What I did watch this week was ‘It: Chapter 2’. It was…long. That was my main take. Films rarely need to be that long. A lot of the middle stretch felt predictable and repetitive, and was largely about scares and set-pieces (having already seen the teaser-trailer with Bev’s visit to her old home, I took the opportunity for a bathroom break because that particular sequence, while well done, didn’t need re-watching, and the rest of the Losers all had similar mini-plots of their own which ran along the same lines.

A lot of the scares follow the same formula, and you can generally predict when a jump-scare is coming. Likewise, a lot of the visual- and body-horror, once you’ve got over the initial shock, doesn’t seem that scary as a viewer. In-universe, it does make sense that It’s incarnations are schlocky horror cliches, because it’s a being that feeds on fear and which seeks out whatever form will evoke that reaction from its victims. So it seems more apt to describe the film as a story about horror rather than just a straight-up horror movie. It’s about the things that make us feel afraid, whether they’re schlocky horror movie monsters, phobias and real-life trauma, or more abstract fears like secrets being revealed. Okay, I’m not entirely comfortable with the decision to make Richie’s fear about his closeted sexuality – while I’m all about positive queer representation, I’m tired of writers making queerness a tragedy to overcome.

This review from the m0vie blog does a much more thorough job than I can of exploring the film’s bigger themes, its parallels and diversions from the source material, and its successes and failings as a movie. Overall, I didn’t dislike the film, and it’s tough to say how it could have been better without being drastically different. For all that the novel remains a horror classic, it’s also definitely of its time, as many horror fans’ tastes have become somewhat more, dare I say, sophisticated since the novel was written. It says a lot that audiences are reacting more to the inclusion of homophobic violence than to any of the more traditional horror aspects.

There were some fun little moments, such as the running joke about Bill’s novels having bad endings (even coming from Stephen King himself in his cameo – author self-deprecation is fun), but also some fat-phobic material that just wasn’t necessary in the modern-day scenes. I think the film does a good job of updating what the ’80s mini-series couldn’t achieve in terms of effects, but I didn’t leave this showing with quite the same good impression as I got from Chapter 1.

That’s it for this week – more Second Hand September posts to come in the next few days.

Have you seen ‘It: Chapter 2’ yet? Did you love Mafuyu’s song as much as I did? Are you also not at all prepared for next week’s episode of ‘Fruits Basket’? As always, share your thoughts in the comments, and remember to follow me on Twitter for more up-to-date anime ramblings.

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