Winter 2017 – Follow-up

Despite the title of this website, I rarely stop after watching intro episodes of anime (unless the show is so terrible or offensive that it doesn’t deserve a second look; there have been many of those over the years). Here are some collected thoughts on some of the second and third episodes I’ve watched of selected series. This post will be updated as I conduct more follow-up viewings, so stay tuned.

 

Saga of Tanya the Evil – Episodes 2 and 3

Read my first impression Here.

I was fairly unimpressed with the first episode of the series, since it seemed to glorify violence and to specifically fetishize the fact that some of the most violent acts of war were being committed by a character in the body of a pre-pubescent girl. “Young girls in horrific situations” could be a sub-genre unto itself in anime, considering all of the series whose main point of interest involves thrusting youngsters into roles way above their emotional pay grade in order to look edgy or wring some sort of unearned emotional response out of the audience. In this case, I’m totally baffled why the first episode begins where it does, because Tanya’s origin story is much more compelling, and puts a totally different slant on what’s actually happening.

We learn that Tanya was originally a (male) Japanese middle manager who was known for being ruthlessly devoted to the health of his company. This meant taking a very uncaring attitude towards other employees, especially when firing them. A disgruntled former employee of the company pushes our protagonist(?) in front of a train early in the second episode. Time stops, and he has a lengthy conversation with God(?) regarding the existence of any deities (I have to hand it to the main character – his ability to maintain skepticism in the existence of God while speaking directly to him requires guts). Refusing to soften up, God (or “Being X” as the main character dubs him) causes him to be reborn in another world, but with all his memories intact. He scrapes by, does what he can to survive, and then joins the military, eventually reaching the point at which we joined the tale in the first episode.

What stood out to me was the fact that the story was less focused on the actual war than it appeared at first. Instead, my main take away from these follow-up episodes is more related to the main character’s conflicts with Being X regarding the need for faith, and Being X’s incredibly manipulative ways of forcing the main character to acknowledge the miraculousness of “God” and the situation God has forced him into. Tanya is compelled by Being X to pray each time the calculation jewel (which hones her magic powers) is used, otherwise it remains unstable and could kill her through its malfunction. This is supposed to eventually instill in her (and in the mentality of the man who still exists within her mind) a sense of humility and faith. On one hand I can see that the character truly needs to learn this lesson, because he’s a total jerk who caused a lot of upset in the lives he supervised. On the other hand, this manipulative deity who pulls strings to get humans to “believe” is pretty abhorrent. I gained a lot more sympathy for Tanya over the course of these episodes, simply for trying to hold onto a worldview while essentially being forced to let it go (or die in the process). This is certainly a lot more complexity than I would have expected originally.

With the way I watch anime, there’s always the danger of being so put off by something right away that I miss out on an anime’s better side by not wanting to bother with it anymore. Personally I think that there are some things that are beyond forgiveness, but there are also cases like this where I feel like maybe whoever was handling the series composition just didn’t do a good job of putting the story’s best foot forward. It’s not as if there aren’t still problems (I’m curious whether reviewers, including myself, can really speak to the genuine nature of the female-female professional relationship between Tanya and her subordinate when Tanya still houses the mostly-unaltered mentality of the Japanese salaryman she once was), but I think I might be up to following this through now.

 

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department – Episode 2

Read my first impression Here.

Watching the second episode of ACCA helped to reinforce some of the general feelings I had about the particular construction this show seems to have. While, again, not a whole lot actually “happens” as far as action-y plot-related stuff, there are a lot of subtleties that seem to be leading in a particular direction.

Jean is still ostensibly the focal character, but there are many scenes throughout the episode where he is present but the POV appears to be held by someone else. This time we’re introduced to “photojournalist” friend of his named Nino, actually an undercover agent hired by Jean’s superiors to follow him around. There are several scenes here and there of Nino reporting on Jean’s whereabouts when normally we the audience would be privy to a firsthand what Jean was doing instead. There were a lot of scenes where I thought to myself that it would have been nice to know about Jean’s activities after going inside his home or turning the lights off in his hotel room; being on the outside and not knowing exactly what’s going on is disorienting, but I also suspect that we’re meant to develop a healthy suspicion of Jean in preparation for some bombshell later on. I’ve been trying to stay away from any plot spoilers to ready myself for this eventual surprise, so I hope that my interpretation is correct. There are several references to his possible involvement in a coup d’etat; whether that’s actually what’s going on or not is the question here.

This episode has similar pacing to the first, so viewers who found themselves frustrated with the slow-moving story in episode 1 will probably not be especially compelled to keep up with the series any further. I feel as though I’ve made my case as to why I find this type of anime series compelling already; the fact is, I haven’t found it boring at all, and I can feel the makings of a good thriller bubbling under the surface of what I’ve seen so far.

 

Gabriel DropOut – Episode 2

Read my first impression Here.

I had the feeling that the unique humor element of this show might wear down pretty quickly, and that was confirmed for me after watching the second episode. The show is reliant on one central gag, that being the opposing (and typically unexpected) personalities of the angels and demons in the main cast. This in itself admittedly remains pretty chuckle-worthy when I think about it, but the second episode falls into a rut that so many anime comedies do, in that it relies too much on its central gag and dances around it without doing much to expand or escalate any of the humor.

In this episode, Satania continues to be haunted by the bread-stealing dog, and thinks she knows more than she actually does about eating lunch in the school lunch room. Raphiel picks on Satania some more. Vigne and Gabriel bicker about Gabriel’s lack of motivation. The girls have an adventure trying to prepare a meal in their cooking class (using some… unusual ingredients). It’s all fairly standard sitcom stuff, with the flavor being the characters’ particular personalities. The issue I’m having at this point is that their personalities could really exist in any similar ensemble comedy, regardless of the characters being heavenly or hellish beings. Remove the horns, wings, halos, and upside-down crosses from the mix, and this is just another typical anime comedy without much worth recommending it above other similar anime series.

I probably won’t watch more of the show at this point, but I’ll try to keep an ear to the ground to see if anything actually ramps-up over the next few weeks.

 

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid – Episode 2

Read my first impression Here.

The second episode of Dragon Maid continues in the same vein of being mostly cute, humorous, and primarily harmless. We meet a second dragon, a juvenile named Kanna, who’s been nursing a crush on Tohru and who wants to punish Kobayashi for monopolizing her time. Jealousy can be a dangerous motivator, but Kanna’s feelings are pretty simplistic and she gives up the pursuit once Kobayashi-san makes her feel welcome (and feeds her some chocolate). The dragons take miss Kobayashi out to play (dragons playing together can be a little dangerous, as we find out). Tohru also uses her dragon strength to capture a thief while out shopping (it’s also very evident that she’s well-liked by all the merchants, though she doesn’t really understand why).

I was really glad that there wasn’t a repeat of the uncomfortable, non consensual nudity from the first episode. It was a stain on what was otherwise a pretty enjoyable first outing for the show. The second episode continues to be fairly cute, manages to feature some really great animation during Tohru’s and Kanna’s play date, as well as during Tohru’s confrontation with the thief in the shopping arcade, and demonstrates a certain charm that makes it fun to watch despite the fact that it doesn’t really get me laughing all that much.

The one aspect that I don’t really like actually forms the basis for the show, which is a little problematic, I suppose. I’m not a big fan of characters who immediately proclaim their love for another character, especially against all logic and their target character’s wishes. Tohru is very forthcoming with her desires and there’s clearly some reason why she’s become fixated on Kobayashi (little bits and pieces of Tohru’s backstory have been peeking through already, so I’m guessing there’s something going on), but her fervent love and overwhelming jealousy is tough to handle without having some of that background to grasp onto. I’m hoping that a little more nuance develops as the show moves on. I’m not familiar with the manga, so I don’t know how realistic I’m being.

I will likely continue along with this show since I’m a fan of the KyoAni aesthetic and animation.

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