Mushishi is the best show this season.
You can stop reading this post now.
That is all you need to know.
…ok maybe here’s some other stuff
Scamp: Tonari no Seki-kun
Mushishi is the best anime, but I don’t like writing about the same thing two weeks in a row so instead I want to say a little something about a show that ended this month. Tonari no Seki-kun was an absolute joy. I don’t think there was ever a week where the jokes really fell flat, which is a remarkable achievement for something that was basically a single gag sketch comedy. A big part of the reason why it succeeds where so many other short anime fail is it gives jokes room to breath. It doesn’t rush through everything at breakneck pace because it only has 7 minutes. It’s delicate and poised, giving proper room for comic timing and the dramatic pause. The anime adaptation didn’t add much to an already impressive manga, but what it did add really helped improve the series. I wish they did add a bit more, since they clearly understood what it was that made the comedy tick.
Shinmaru: Ping Pong
Sports anime really live and die by their characters. Many of them follow similar paths: struggles, failure and redemption. Sports lend themselves easily to a certain narrative structure. That’s why the characters are so important — they bring these silly competitive games to life. The Ping Pong cast has definitely made me care about their athletic foibles. Part of it is because they are inherently interesting, but just as big a part is how the show frames their development. There’s a solid economy of character development at work here. Ping Pong doesn’t leave everything unsaid, but it leaves just enough to the imagination and attention span of the viewer to create better engagement. Like, a lesser show would have made a bigger deal of Wenge speaking Japanese after his humbling defeat in the earlier tournament. But Ping Pong trusts the viewer enough to make that connection, and I feel like it rewarded everyone with that scene of karaoke bonding, which might be the most heartwarming scene I’ve seen this year. My heart fluttered. But yes, with the art style being wild and the athletic feats dynamic, I enjoy how relatively understated the emotional development is. Even Smile, who doesn’t express much emotion, is sympathetic to me. He just became what a lot of people pressured him to be. In its own way, the scene where he shares in the joy of the new ping pong balls with Ota is as good as any other in the series.
Inushinde: No Game No Life
I must say that I did not anticipate enjoying this as much as I have. It may have the creepy fanservice and uncomfortable exploitation of an 11 year old girl that we all expected, but it also has a game of shiritori that destroys the laws of physics and unmakes Earth in order to win a library. It may make its main characters into paragons of perfection who view the world they’ve entered as little more than an elaborate game, but it also makes that game into a crucial element that pervades every aspect of existence. Most surprisingly, buried in its many over the top moments are genuinely profound moments of character development on the part of the deceased king, whose apparently inept rule may have not been as disastrous as initially thought. For how skeevy it is, No Game No Life is probably the most consistently enjoyable non-JoJo show of the season, and I never thought I’d say that.
What’s not so hot
Since nothing else is leaping out at me from the handful of shows I’m still watching, I’m taking the easy route out and picking my hate-watch for the season. Because holy moly is Mahouka ever a steaming pile of crap. It’s bad on almost every level. Half the episode is taken up with explanations of their magic system which are like having someone read out a fucking textbook to you. I can actually follow the magic now, but that doesn’t make it any less tedious. The animation is bland and directing insipid, putting no effort into making endless talking heads visually appealing. Even during one of the very few action scenes, the fight choreography is boring so it can’t even fall back on that excuse. For something that is this boring on a purely surface level, it barely matters how the story itself essentially amounts to a fuck yours got mine mentality. But that’s there too if you truly want to dig deep into the shit-pile to discover the ebola-virus at the core.
Shinmaru: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Before y’all flip out, I can assure you that unless something goes terribly wrong, this is the only time you’ll see this down here. I put JoJo in this spot for a couple of reasons: 1) Per usual, I dropped everything I don’t give a shit about, and 2) It took WAY too long to get to the part of Stardust Crusaders I actually care about. If I’m worried about any aspect of the adaptation, it’s how thoroughly faithful it is to the source, specifically all the dialogue. Characters are talky as hell in JoJo, because they’re actively trying to figure out what their opponents can do to them, but that works differently in manga form than it does in anime. What takes a few seconds to read in silence in manga takes way longer to listen to in anime. It all adds up. It’s not so bad when it’s the characters tooling around and doing silly nonsense; that’s a lot of fun. It’s bad when there’s supposed to be tension, and it feels more like the show is stalling. The episode where Polnareff battles the evil doll is exactly how it should go: The battle is always moving, and whatever talk there is happens when Polnareff is getting stalked or stabbed by a killer doll. Combine that shit with action or cut it out entirely and let the visuals tell the story. You can keep the pace snappy, David Pro! I believe in you!
(I almost put Mahouka in this spot, just because I feel like I’m watching it because I read Scamp’s posts, but I like Scamp’s posts, so my Mahouka experience has been quite positive.)
Inushinde: Black Bullet
Black Bullet isn’t the kind of show that I expected to chill me to the bone, or to provide profound insight on the nature of exclusion. After all, this is as generic as light novel trash gets. It really hasn’t done much to back up those nonexistent expectations either– which is fine. I’m okay with a dumb show as long as it plays off of its dumb strengths, and uses its internal logic in the most ridiculous way possible. The end of the first arc is one of the finest examples that I’ve seen, making a prosthetic arm-shooting railgun a plausible means of conflict resolution. It makes sense in-universe, and displays self-awareness that really endears the show to me. This is what generic light novel trash should aspire to be.
As is par for the course though, the best ideas have been spent by this point, and Black Bullet has since flopped around aimlessly in search of some gimmick to latch onto. Unlike No Game No Life, which takes everything to its logical conclusion, Black Bullet has yet to follow up on the unabashed goofiness of ad hoc prosthetic weaponry. Having an antagonist named Ayn Rand who wants to take down the current government doesn’t count. It isn’t despicable like Mahouka, but it lacks any sort of hook past occasional glimpses of clever plot resolution, mostly buried under painfully glurgy melodrama and overused BGM.