One Week Friends – Episode 3
You know what I really love about this series? It never wastes my time. We learned about Fujimiya’s memory loss before the first episode was over. She started keeping a journal the following week, a crucial step towards building a linear narrative around an amnesiac. And just when the show needs to shake things up a bit and expand its cast, Shogo arrives to rain all over the happy couple. It’s interesting to note that when he asks whether they’re dating, Hase begins to stutter and denies it, but Fujimiya says nothing. She actually looks pensive, like she’s considering whether what she’s read in her diary qualifies as a relationship. If they ever do start dating, an event that Fujimiya would certainly record, it would be a lot harder to rekindle a romance each week than it would a friendship. She might not even believe what she’d written, no matter how routine the journaling process would be by that point.
But back to Shogo. His tepid personality reminds me of the love interest from Ao Haru Ride. He doesn’t even make eye contact with Fujimiya when he returns her forgotten notebook midway through the episode. He posits the theory that she’s faking her memory loss, and justifies his coldness by pointing out that people are always talking about her, so she ought to be used to it. The guy is a first-class jerk, really, but because he’s not friends with Fujimiya, she remembers him from week to week. I wonder what use the show will find for this loophole? Oh, and speaking of loopholes, I was elated when Fujimiya remembered having made the fried eggs for Hase. His certainty that this was only the beginning of her recovery warmed my cynical aniblogging heart. This show’s ambition isn’t large enough to land it in the pantheon of all-time classics, but its execution will keep it afloat in this tournament for a long time.
Silver Spoon – Episode 3
Silver Spoon is the best romance of 2013. Not for Hachiken’s one-sided crush on Mikage, of course, but for the irrefutably canon ship of Hachiken/Pork Bowl. His connection with that runty piglet was instantaneous, and his attachment so strong that he couldn’t resist naming him, even as his classmates insisted that it would only make it harder when Pork Bowl met his inevitable death. I have a pet theory that Hachiken is the youngest of several siblings, hence his strong identification with Pork Bowl, whose small size resulted in an inferior spot on his mother’s teat. Even after being moved closer to her chest, where more milk is produced, Pork Bowl still preferred its original position.
This show is great fun when it explores animal behavior like that. In fact, I have more fun learning about the chickens, cows, and race horses of Silver Spoon than I do about its human characters. We finally got a flashback to Hachiken’s pre-Yezo High days, but disappointingly, it was just a conversation with his middle school counselor. We also saw a text from his mom and eavesdropped on a phone call between Hachiken’s old counselor and his new principal, but none of these moments shed any significant light on our main character’s backstory. It’s past time for us to get something tangible there, or else future conflicts like the one between Hachiken and Komaba this week won’t hold much weight. I know I keep beating the same drum every time I write about this show, but when a series’ animal cast is a bigger draw than its human one, there’s an imbalance somewhere that you have to correct.
The Verdict: Both shows had good episodes this week, but only one is capable of tugging on my heartstrings, and that’s One Week Friends.
Ping Pong: The Animation – Episode 3
Of all the ways Ping Pong could have opened its excellent third episode, I never would have predicted “Smile has a pleasant chat with Koizumi’s wife” to be the one it would select, much less that it would be such an effective scene. After all, Smile and Koizumi’s last encounter ended with the Katase prodigy leaving his coach injured on the gym floor. She assumes that Tsukimoto has come to wish her husband well, but the reality appears to be that their paths crossed by chance – Smile isn’t the type to spend a lot of time in other people’s homes, and he says as much. But Koizumi’s wife isn’t discouraged by Smile’s severe introversion. She doesn’t push or pressure him – in fact, she says his lack of charm is “wonderful,” and invites him to stop by any time. Smile blushes at this and, to my great surprise, promises that he will. In less than a minute, she managed to gently pry open the shell that took her husband weeks to crack. From this conversation we learn that what Smile wants isn’t to be left alone, as he claims, but to be accepted for who he is. Koizumi’s wife presents no expectations or demands during their talk, and suggests that he visit again at his leisure, on his terms. It’s no wonder, really, that even a shy kid like Smile would accept her invitation.
Everybody else in this episode wants a piece of Tsukimoto, though. Dragon wants to recruit him; Koizumi, though he’s backed off a bit, wants him to win at all costs; Wenge wants to beat him when they meet at the Kanagawa Qualifiers; Peco wants him not to use different playstyles from match to match. It’s all a bit too much for Smile, who destroys his first two opponents of the tournament as a retort to Dragon’s criticism that he cares too much about his opponents, but folds against Wenge despite being in a dominant position midway through the match. Wenge’s coach has been a great foil for Koizumi thus far, displaying great patience despite his student’s difficult personality, but he transforms into a different beast during the fourth set. Preying on Wenge’s nationalistic pride and the fear that he’ll never return to his former glory, he issues a verbal beating to the former prodigy, administering the final blow by yelling, “You’re not in Japan to see the sights, moron!”
Smile may not be able to understand this “pep talk,” but based on his scowl directly afterwards he clearly got the message, and soon enough Wenge takes the fourth and fifth sets to win the match. Did Smile lose on purpose the same way he did against Peco in the premiere? And if that’s the case, did Wenge know it? The dejected look on his face, even in triumph, suggests that he did – after all, he could tell just from listening to their game two weeks ago that Smile was sandbagging against his friend. How this will affect Wenge’s mentality as he advances to play stronger opponents like Dragon will be interesting to watch. As for Smile, he appears to have been eliminated from the tournament, but I’m hoping that the show will find a way to reintegrate him into the action soon enough. Wenge may have been my favorite character at first, but after two stellar episodes with Tsukimoto at their core, I’m most excited to follow his growth over the next eight episodes.
Witch Craft Works – Episode 3
This episode of Witch Craft Works featured one of the tensest moments of the tournament so far. Until today, Kagari and Takamiya-kun had only ever defended themselves against grunt level Tower Witches, but on the bus ride home from school, they encounter Chronoire Schwarz VI, an enemy who commands power as effortlessly as Kagari and poses a serious threat to the Takamiya’s safety. First she surrounded the bus with a barrier reminiscent of the ones from Madoka Magica (never a bad series to emulate), giving the whole scene a dreamy, underwater quality that really worked in its favor. Then she froze Kagari in place, preventing her from interfering as she stabbed Takamiya in the chest.
I wasn’t too concerned at this point, since as a main character he has a serious amount of plot armor, but then came the reveal that any bodily harm done to him is transferred to Kagari. Seeing a character so nonchalantly strong get beaten so soundly made me sit up in my chair. Chronoire went on to speculate that this connection was the result of a contract they had signed, but nothing like that has happened in the anime so far. Even after Kagari regained consciousness and they made their escape, Takamiya began to wonder whether he had known her in the past. This question, along with the candy that Chronoire promised would “unleash his power,” provide a couple good hooks for the show going forward.
The Verdict: Witch Craft Works’ characters are much prettier than Ping Pong’s, but they can’t hold a candle to them in terms of likability or depth.
NEXT UP: Watamote vs. Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun, Hozuki no Reitetsu vs. Noragami