What’s that? An August Roundup halfway through September? It’s been a weird month, what can I say. One of us has sold out, the other hasn’t watched any anime in ages, and the other started playing a video game which is basically Euro Truck Simulator in Space. Someone the roundup got lost in all that mix. But here it is now, so enjoy it while you can.
Turns out that fantasy stories don’t have to all be high fantasy. Sometimes you can use a fantasy setting to tell a mystery whodunnit series. No sweeping narratives. Heck most of this series has taken place over the course of 24 hours. I’ve seen some people criticise the story for being a crappy mystery as it introduces random magical explanations and rules so you can never follow the mystery, but as someone who couldn’t give a hoot about most mystery series, the way Rokka goes about things is perfect for me. In the movie/play 12 Angry Men, it is never revealed at the end whether the boy in the case did commit the murder as it was never important. The whys and hows of events is not important. The mystery is there as a tool to let us explore the characters. That’s where I feel Rokka excels. It creates 7 genuine distinct characters where I can theorise why each or any of them would be this mysterious 7th. Not how they did it, but why each of them would do it. That’s what makes this show compelling, even as the animation gradually deteriorates.
Shinmaru: The X-Files
Hi, I’ve been away for a while for various personal reasons. I haven’t even watched anime in like a month. (Until I watched the Love Live movie a couple of days ago, but you can go ANYWHERE to read about that.) What did I watch? A whole bunch of The X-Files! There’s shipping in that, so it’s probably anime, right? I’d only watched a few episodes of The X-Files in the past and suddenly got the itch to watch the whole thing out of nowhere. (Well, most of it. I was provided with a helpful list of mostly essential episodes — https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QHPHywXQZWd7Et_JcV3iLIpMpMhbs4-3OTXvJM2u3v8/edit — that cuts out a lot of the dreck.) The experience has been a lot of fun so far! What I like most about the series is how often it’s willing to play with its own conventions and sense of self-seriousness to make weird, funny episodes. My favorites are the episodes where relatively normal people quite far outside the range of this world of aliens and government conspiracies run into Mulder and Scully, and you see that this pair seems normal-ish only because they exist in such a bizarre universe. Any time anyone confronts Mulder on what a giant weirdo he is, you’re getting solid gold.
I’m at the beginning of season five right now, which I have been informed is still in the good section of the series. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s amazing to me that The X-Files lasted nine seasons, with several of them being legitimately good. Balancing the conspiracy-focused episodes to reveal information while also keeping essential information in the dark, but also not so much that you’re endlessly frustrating viewers, strikes me as an enormously difficult task. Basically every big conspiracy episode I’ve seen so far has the same structure: Mulder comes close to finding evidence of extraterrestrial life and is just about to verify it and reveal it to the world when he gets distracted by something the government has concocted while they swoop in and smash the evidence to bits. And yet it’s still compelling, because subsequent episodes inch ever closer to Mulder finally breaking through before snatching it all away at the last second. Poor guy.
Inushinde: Sore ga Seiyuu
Well Sore ga Seiyuu sure ended up being my darkhorse for the season. Hell, I didn’t even remotely consider that I’d even watch it when the season began; yet another reason why listening to past-me is always a mistake. For its lack of fanfare and being made by a studio that’s desperate to remind people that it still exists, Sore ga Seiyuu has been surprisingly really strong thus far, using the nervousness of budding talent as a lens to view the pros and (mostly) cons of voice acting as a career. Though a lot of what I enjoy can be chalked up to my tendency to be wowed by moeblob shit, Sore ga Seiyuu injects a tone-appropriate amount of awkwardness into every scene, so that the parts intended to be funny are funny, and those intended to emphasize anxiety make the viewer (or probably just me) squirm. It makes me want to curl into a ball and die due to vicarious embarrassment, and that’s a very good thing.
What’s not so hot
Scamp: Aquarion Logos
I stuck with Aquarion Logos far longer than it really deserved because of what a grasp EVOL managed to have over me. But after several episodes I have to accept that this season just doesn’t have any of the magic. The biggest one is arguably that its themes are dumb. The combining mecha stuff in EVOL made sense for its lust to love, adolescence themes. The power of words has fuck all to do with combining and the story doesn’t feel like it comes together in any meaningful way because of it. Also who the fuck thought it was a good idea to introduce a little kid in a series where combining robots uses the same symbolism orgasming together has? On a more shallow note, the character designs in EVOL were fun and attractive, while in Logos they just look misshapen. Their mouths are too small which makes them look like they have all eaten lemons before coming on set, and evidently the character designer struggles to draw the characters when they are at an angle. It hurts because there is genuine heart behind Logos, but there’s no direction. I have to accept that EVOL really was just the planets aligning in one incredible moment of brilliance that will never be replicated.
Shinmaru: WWE SummerSlam
As I’ve written in the past, I’m a fan of pro wrestling, but I haven’t watched WWE regularly in months. After returning to WWE a very excited fan, my patience was ground into dust by the normal WWE routine after a year or so. If you think waiting for genuinely great shows each season is rough as an anime fan, try watching WWE some time. They bungle so many sure things, rely on so many tired tropes, and basically get by because every so often they stumble onto something so good that even they couldn’t possibly fuck it up. I was bored at work one Sunday and decided to watch SummerSlam (WWE’s second biggest show of the year) for the hell of it. What it did was remind me why I’m not watching WWE anymore. I won’t go through every match (because barely anyone probably cares), but the mix of matches that had either 1) boring or 2) nonexistent storylines is ridiculous. And the matches that DID have actually (for wrestling) compelling stories got bungled, either hilariously (John Cena vs. Seth Rollins) or horribly (Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar).
When pro wrestling is good, it is a lot of fun. When pro wrestling is bad, there is almost nothing worse.
Time travel is a difficult thing to write into a story, particularly when it’s only a small part of a larger plot. It doesn’t feel fair to bring up Steins;Gate as a comparison, since the two are very different shows try that very different things with very different results, but it at least made time travel its central conceit, while making every trip have long-lasting consequences for the protagonist. Something like Charlotte that not only inserts it as a last-minute thing, but does so in a way that kills the tone and everything else that the show has set up, feels like a flimsy justification for Jun Maeda to write himself out of the hole he wrote himself into for the sake of killing off a little girl for cheap emotional impact. I actually dug Charlotte basically being about D-tier X-Men trying to evade the clutches of evil scientists with a nebulous presence, while causing comedic bodily harm to themselves and others. I’m not so big on it being a somehow worse Sliders.