Mushishi Zoku Shou – Episode 3
The last two entries I wrote about Mushishi were quite long, but this one will be brief. I’ve been wanting to start limiting my reviews to just a paragraph each, and this simpler tale provides the perfect opportunity for that kind of brevity. The story opens with a flashback to a sweet conversation between an older brother and his curious little sister, but by the time Ginko appears, we learn that the girl has fallen through the icy layer of a frozen lake and died. The brother is subsequently targeted by mushi that steal his body heat, tricking his senses so that the slightest warmth feels as though it might burn him, and making him impervious to the harshest cold. This is a clear metaphor for depression, and it works rather well as things play out, although the parallels aren’t woven as seamlessly into the fabric of the story as in the best episodes of Mushishi.
What I really want to talk about, though, is just how beautiful this show is capable of looking and sounding. Winter is my favorite season, and Mushishi captures so much of what makes it great with each exterior shot. Look at the texture of the snow in the foreground above. You can tell from the its unevenness and the way the sun catches each layer that your leg would sink straight through to the ground if you were to step into that picture. I love the snow on the evergreen trees, and on the branches of sleeping bushes. Those are winter staples, of course, but Mushishi pays attention to the small stuff, as well. Check out the little twigs all around the bigger plants, poking their heads out from beneath the snow. If you squint, you can even see a few leaves hanging on for dear life. And just look at this screenshot – I’m kicking myself even as I click the “Publish” button for not making that the episode picture instead.
But hey, Mushishi always looks great. Any missed opportunity to talk about its stunning background art can be made up with the next episode. Where this one in particular excelled, though, was sound design. The crackling of the fire as Ginko chatted with the innkeeper, the sound of snow crunching under the characters’ boots, the way Tae’s teeth chattered after she was pulled from the lake – this was a headphone-worthy experience for sure. Mushishi is a series that excels in every aspect of its production, from story and art to music and voice acting. I don’t know how many staff members from the original production returned after nine years off the air, but given how similar Zoku Shou feels to that classic first season, my guess is quite a few.
Oops, looks like I wrote way too much about Mushishi again.
Your Lie In April – Episode 3
Looking over my last entry on Your Lie In April, it appears that I was quite hopeful for its future, but this episode put a bit of a damper on that excitement. I wrote then that the fragility shared by Kousei and Kaori could be the basis for their romance, but after the way Kaori downplayed and then dismissed her would-be accompanist’s traumatic history, I’m not so sure. I still maintain that Kaori has been hurt in some way: after spending the first eighteen minutes of the show nagging, punching, throwing things, and glaring at Kousei in an effort to get him to play the piano, she finally broke down and cried, but rather than resorting to emotional blackmail, she really did seem hurt in that moment. Still, that moment of honesty came rather late in the episode, and only after a string of ineffective, unfunny attempts at coercion.
My other quibble with this series has to do with the nature of Kousei’s selective hearing, which was given more detail than ever before. He was playing just fine in the coffee shop until he flashed back to the time he choked on stage as a grade schooler. Afterwards, he explains that although he can hear his fingers moving and the sound of the keys sinking, he can’t hear the tones that result from the hammers striking the piano’s strings. I’m no expert, and I haven’t done the slightest bit of research or even Googling, but this sounds totally preposterous to me. If the show weren’t so specific and so adamant about it, it would be easier to overlook as a metaphor for fear, but as it stands we’re expected not only to believe that Kousei has this condition, but to tolerate it when other people insist that all he needs to do is try harder, believe in himself, trust in the power of love, etc. You can’t have your made-up hearing disability and eat it, too.
The Verdict: Shigatsu might have the visuals necessary to compete with Mushishi, but not the storytelling chops or emotional depth.
Sabagebu! – Episode 3
I was raised on the Nickelodeon cartoons of the late nineties and early aughts. We’re talking Spongebob, Fairly Oddparents, and Jimmy Neutron here – shows that followed the typical western model of splitting their runtime in half and telling two distinct stories. This likely became the standard after some genius “discovered” that kids are more likely to sit still for one longer commercial break than two shorter ones, although now that I’ve typed that sentence I’m doubting whether it’s true. In any case, it’s an effective way to package an animated comedy, and it’s also the form that Sabagebu! took this week.
An excellent first segment introduced the Survival Game Club’s hapless advisor and saw the girls dressed in cool exterminator gear, while the second introduced a rival for the club president Miou and featured Platy in a referee’s uniform. The narrator continues to be the show’s MVP, going off on tangents and contradicting the main characters in a style very similar to that of Ron Howard in Arrested Development, perhaps my favorite sitcom ever. A ton of cute animals joined in the violence this week, from the aggressive hornets at the beginning, to the battle-tested crow who didn’t flinch at gunfire, to the preposterous food chain reaction that led to Momoka’s victory in the second half. This is a very funny show that blends disparate elements with what seems to be very little effort, and I’m really glad to have started watching it.
Aldnoah.Zero – Episode 3
It’s hard to believe that out of these four series, I have the least to say about a science fiction thriller featuring political intrigue and giant robots, but that seems to be the case. This show is competently scripted and directed, which is more than can be said about a great number of mecha anime. Inaho proved himself to be an excellent tactician, but more than that, the weaknesses of the Martian technology that he exploited actually made a lot of sense. He also got a bit of fleshing out via a standard ‘calm before the storm’ scene with a classmate, which revealed that he’s human just like everyone else.
Even though the methods they used to take out the Kataphrakt were highly inventive, the structure of this episode was not. Even the post-credits tag featuring Slaine was telegraphed like an Eli Manning pass. The questions now are whether any Martian eyes in the sky witnessed his betrayal, and when he’ll join up with Inaho, Asseylum and company.
The Verdict: Aldnoah embraces its genre and fulfills its tropes with style, but Sabagebu! throws anime convention out the window and is all the better for it.
NEXT UP: One Week Friends vs. Silver Spoon, Ping Pong vs. Witch Craft Works