The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 3

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In this week’s installment…

Things get HEAVY as Death Parade, Maria, and Yatterman reach into some of the darkest depths possible. Fortunately Shirobako, Earth Defense Club, and some Garo filler are also around to lighten the mood.

The Roundup is a weekly guide to all the “other” shows we’re watching this season. Check out our full, weekly coverage of:

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders / Gundam: Reconguista in G / Assassination Classroom / The Rolling Girls / Gundam Build Fighters Try / Kamen Rider Drive / Yurikuma Arashi / Parasyte – The Maxim / Your Lie In April / Durarara!! x2

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Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!
Episode 4

Fridays 1:40 am EST on Funimation

Watching: ArtemisJel, Marlin

Artemis: Following on the heels of what I think was the funniest episode of this series to date, we get what was probably the weakest. A few anime references there, a couple of self-deprecating jabs there, and I cracked maybe one genuine smile the whole way through. I don’t have anything against parody shows (in fact, I like this one about as much as I’m currently enjoying the new Sailor Moon, which is a bit ironic), but I’m now officially a third of the way through – if I’m not convinced Defense Club is worth my time by now, then I doubt I ever will be. I’m calling it quits here.

Jel: This episode was not the show’s best work and I fear Earth Defense Club may have peaked already. I suppose I got a certain lowest common denominator chuckle out of the gang running around as naked babies and Yumoto trouncing the bad guy as if nothing happened, but trying to add some kind of emotional backstory is not what this show needs. I’m willing to keep carrying the torch for another episode but with so may other great shows to watch this season this has sunk to the bottom of my watch list.

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Earth Defense Club – Subtle, nuanced humor

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Shirobako
Episode 16

Thursdays 11:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Marlin

Aqua: Shirobako is getting weirder by the episode, with Aoi’s strange delusions increasing exponentially and the out-of-place oddities becoming too much to count. It’s Ema’s bizarre — yet oddly adorable — dancing habit that steals the show this week amidst all the dogfighting metaphors. After last week’s somewhat scholastic aside, this episode returns to the Shirobako tradition of juggling a generous amount of subplots on every end of the comedy-drama spectrum. Ema helping Iguchi out with the original author’s requests serves as a nice analog to Ema’s own breakdown in the show’s first half, while Aoi gets her time to shine, refusing to halt production even with the character designs needing to be changed — resulting in ‘funny story’ guy getting his hilarious just desserts. Is it me or is Aoi starting to get surprisingly good at this thing?

Gee: You could argue that the creative issues that arose last week being solved within 22 minutes is unrealistic, but from a pragmatic standpoint, it’s probably for the best. You could easily devote an entire season of anime to just one or two of the various trials and tribulations that occur throughout the production pipeline. Hell, in most production scenarios, losing 10 entire days because of unsatisfactory character designs is kind of ridiculous. Most studios would probably already start talking to other artists after three days, no less be willing to wait up to 10. As Aqua mentioned, Ema helping Iguchi out was a nice way of bringing narrative events full circle. Let it be said that no artist, regardless of experience and age, can’t stand to benefit from outside help. With Aoi getting into the groove of running the constantly nigh-imploding ship that is an animation studio, a part of me can’t wait to see what fate throws at her next.

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Garo – That is his leg, right?

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Garo: The Animation
Episode 16

Fridays 12:23 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee

Aqua: Whereas last episode provided an interesting angle on the Garo mythos, this here episode was pure, unadulterated filler of the highest order, right up to the shoddy animation quality. Nevertheless, Germán can easily carry an episode on his own, and his lighthearted interactions with Ximena nicely contract the kind of pervasive melancholy hanging over every scene between León and Lara. I’m not exactly sure on whether they’re actually pushing a romance between the two — mostly because Ximena seems to be quite a bit younger than Germán, but it seems to be working surprisingly well regardless. How León’s going to react to his father’s maybe-new-lady-friend is going to be a whole other pair of trousers, however. While this week’s Horror made a strong impression with its haunting cold open introduction, the subsequent confrontation with Zoro was a bit lackluster. The actual monster didn’t look all that impressive, his supposed moral ambiguity was a mere thin layer of fake depth, and his irresistible urge to heal his defeated opponent seemed like something straight out of a Super Sentai show. Not exactly the strongest episode Garo has had up to now, as you might’ve guessed, but hardly something I’d advise you stay away from.

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Death Parade – I guess they were playing Persona 4 Arena

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Death Parade
Episode 4

Fridays 1:30 pm EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Artemis, Euri, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Artemis: Death Parade continues to mix it up its formula, this week by introducing us to two strangers with parallel familial issues rather than a romantic couple. The game itself, while not as exciting to watch as bowling or darts, was probably the most emotionally hard-hitting of the series so far, and I have to give the show props for managing to balance out its melodramatic and theatrical nature with its more nuanced psychological themes. I also thought it was a good move on Death Parade’s part to skip the explanation of the rules to our guest characters of the week, which enabled the episode to cut straight to the heart of the matter while leaving off any pointless exposition.

Aqua: Let’s get the elephant out of the room immediately: Yes, once again, the woman was the one to get sent to hell for sins commonly associated with her gender, which certainly isn’t working in Death Parade‘s favour. At the very least Decim had a genuine reason to judge the person in question a sinner this time, though it’s on tactics throughout the episode that Death Parade completely misses the point. While Misaki undoubtedly did a terrible thing by assaulting Yusuke, and must’ve been a pretty unpleasant person in general, this episode made me realize that Death Parade‘s entire premise — the idea that humans only show their true nature in an ‘extreme situation’ is ridiculous. The only reason why Misaki resorted to violence to win and Yusuke didn’t, is because Misaki suffered a life of horrible abuse — which obviously had a clear impact on her mental health. But their trauma is not who a person is. You cannot judge a person by seeing how they respond to an extreme situation, as such situations are not a part of the human context.

In fact, you need this context to determine who someone is — as opposed to what Death Parade may think, an extreme situation strips people of the context they need to be who they are. Of course, they are still accountable for their actions, but there is a reason why the law doesn’t regard, say, all murders equally, regardless of context. Death Parade is not the first, nor the last show to fall into the easy, misanthropic pitfall of claiming all humans become monsters when their survival is at stake. It’s a worrying trend that needs to disappear. Good people do bad things. Good people do unforgivable things, and my faith once again lies with Decim’s mysterious assistant to make him aware of this fact. Creating extreme situations to assess people’s ‘true nature’ is what Death Parade is all about, but the judgements  resulting from these situations have been absolutely disastrous so often now, I hope the show is building up to a brutal deconstruction of its own premise — showing that the system Quindecim operates on is wrong. I sincerely hope that is the case, if only because the alternative — that the talented people working on this show are a bunch of misogynistic, cynical, moral fascists — would simply be heartbreaking.

Jel: Just to chime in on Aqua’s point, I agree for the most part but I also don’t think they’re portraying Decim’s judgements as absolute truth. At the very least they’re making it clear he has a very difficult job and he doesn’t always get it right. It made the moment he embraces Misaki at the end pretty powerful, as if he didn’t know what else to do but he knew had to do something. I hope we get to revisit these results the way they re-evaluated his judgement in episode 2, especially as his assistant takes a bigger role in the games.

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Log Horizon II
Episode 17

Saturdays 7:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Gee, Iro, Marlin, Timmy

Marlin: As if the writers of this show seem to have a vendetta against us getting anything we want, the fun wagon adventures are once again derailed by a new arrival. Nureha’s neutering this season has already ruined a lot of her menace and credibility after her imposing reveal in the first season. The last thing I would want is to have her insert herself into the plot and take things even farther away from fun adventuring times. My only hope is the scant few scenes where the girls were having some cute gossip amongst themselves in the most PG hot springs scene in forever. Sheroe continues to be a bit annoying, but in a way that continues to make her just seem like an embodiment of Shiroe unhinged from his responsibilities. There also seemed to be a strange implication that the two Shiroes are actually a summoner-master duo, which would be a much different answer to the Sheroe question than I imagined.

Iro: My hopes of a relatively simple, filler-y covered wagon adventure starring the kids have been dashed by this point, as the appearances of both Roe2 and Nureha (in her Dariella guise from the end of Season 1) basically herald in the return of the plot. Roe2 in particular raises a lot of weird questions, particularly since she claims she’s from the moon, which was shown earlier in the season to be the location Adventurers are sent when they die. On the bright side, the next episode preview makes things look like they’ll focus on Rudy and Isuzu, which could hopefully be fun.

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Maria the Virgin Witch – Seriously, is no one having fun this week?

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Maria The Virgin Witch
Episode 4

Sundays 9:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Jel, Iro, Marlin

Jel: I’m a bit wary of the potential “we need war to survive” or “war is part of the natural order of things” message Maria is brewing, but at this point in the story I think they’re just using it to make Maria’s life choices a little more complicated beyond “God will smite you if you keep interfering” I apologize for all the “quotes”, but I’m sure you know what I’m getting at. On the flip side, the flashback with her trying to cure the plague makes you wonder if these people are even worth saving. It’s a very interesting mix of ideals with an interesting character in the middle of it all and I do love how the show continues to hold nothing back, I just remain a little cautious as to where this is all headed.

Marlin: As a Catholic, I will continue to say how hard it is to watch this show and not see most of its conflict as stemming from the idea of CHURCH BAD, NOT CHURCH GOOD. It is interesting that the show is factoring the war economy into why just stopping battles won’t magically make things better. I’m hoping that the lesson is that the battle for people’s souls starts with the people, not simply their actions. If Maria wants to do more than delay the suffering, she has to deal with the people who are using the war for their benefit, and eliminate their reasons to do so. If the show had just left things off there, I feel it would have been a much more nuanced take on the mentality of Medieval Europe. Then we get the plague scene, where an almost laughably intolerant village seems to reinforce that black and white view of the church once again. With Brother Bernard looking very ominous at the end of this episode, I’m afraid my worst fears will be realized very soon.

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Yatterman Night – You know things are heavy when they break out the graphic pen sketch filter

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Yatterman Night
Episode 4

Sundays 10:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Gee, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Jel: I think Yatterman may have climbed it’s way to the top as my favorite new show this season. It continues to impress me with the way it uses its retro goofiness to amplify the incredibly heavy drama. Watching Mitchan go into the mandatory weird, robotic cheer for her husband with tears streaming down her face gave me chills. I also find it fascinating how Leopard and co. are still technically the “villains’ and managed to get trounced in every battle, and yet I’m cheering for them harder than any “hero” I’ve seen in awhile. This was another excellent episode and I hope they keep them coming.

Iro: I haven’t seen a show jump so quickly and effectively between tones since Golden Time, and Yatterman Night might even be beating it out. Citizens forcing themselves to cheer when one of their friends is dragged away for a life of hard labor is downright mortifying, and I admit I wasn’t expecting Doronbow to fail so handily and be forced to simply move on, unable to make things right. Even less expected was the exceptional action scene near the end of the episode, proving that the fights shown in the OP sequence aren’t just for show. If Yatterman Night can keep it up, it could be one of the best shows in recent memory.

Gee: Yatterman Night continues to do excellent job of balancing its old school antics with the kind of harsh and chilling darkness that pervades it. Last week I said that Yatterman Night seemed to have declared what kind of show it was aspiring to be. This week, I was handily proven wrong by its willingness to explore the darker aspects of its universe. On one hand, Leopard’s crew continuously failing all the time is a great subversion on the ineffectual weekly villains. By using that very same narrative tool to make her mission seem all the more bleak, it creates for a chilling and enthralling story. On the other hand, Leopard’s unyielding drive in the face of overwhelming despair is inspiring and equally engaging. I’m not sure my heart is ready to handle the Doronbow gang failing upwards (or sideways, or even downwards) every week, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to stick around to see it through.

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2 thoughts on “The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 3

  1. I just watched all four Yatterman episodes and I really like what we’re getting. Have you noticed the details? In the 4th ep Leopards outfit is frayed at the edges and worn, not like new. I appreciate that.

    They’re complete defeat by that dog and red eyed dude was surprising. I half expected their robot to have a secret weapon. Good change of pace.

    • I did notice Leopard’s outfit. They’re doing a great job of making them the underdogs, you really want to cheer them on.

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