The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 9

roundup_09_1 In this week’s installment…

We are getting near the end of the season which means plot twists and big reveals all over the place. Garo, Death Parade, and Yatterman give away a few secrets, plus Jel puts his entire writing career in jeopardy by quoting the Spice Girls.

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 DriveParasyte – The Maxim / Your Lie In April / Durarara!! x2

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Shirobako
Episode 22

Thursdays 11:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Marlin

Aqua: So, anyone else totally shipping Tarou and Hiraoka now? Birds of a feather flock together, after all. It seems to be the sad truth of the anime industry that a lot of people working in it seem to be Hiraokas — once dedicated workers with a real desire to make something great, only to have their dreams crushed by everyone else not giving a sod. Shirobako‘s main strength has always been the many, many reasons it gives for why anime… well, sucks, be it impossibly tight schedules, ill communication, people with no real passion just doing their jobs, directors and writers acting like unreasonable divas or sponsors making impossible demands. Hiraoka’s backstory is yet another of these case studies, and while it far from excuses his repugnant behaviour, it does knock down pretty much the only positive absolute the show still adheres to: Aoi’s belief that passion and determination will solve all your problems. Meanwhile, Misa and Sugie make welcome reappearances to help Ema muster up the confidence she needs to accept a position as animation supervisor. Oddly enough, it’s Ai’s reaction that shows just how far Ema has come since the beginning of the show: By casting aside her doubts for Ai’s sake, Ema’s become stronger herself, which in turn inspires Ai to take matters into her own hands and drop mad rhymes with consult the directing crew about the colour of a character’s underwear. Yes indeed, they thought it was a good idea to have Ai draw a fanservice scene. You could make an entire episode out of the hilarity that would cause!

Gee: Goddamn, there’s just so much I could say about this week’s Shirobako. You have Tarou and Hiraoka’s positively heartwarming camaraderie, proving that against all odds, Shirobako can make even the most unlikeable characters sympathetic and enjoyable in their own right. I’ll admit it right now, I would totally watch a Shirobako OVA about the misadventures of Tarou and Hiraoka. And in a lot of ways, I see something of a frightening reflection of myself in Hiraoka’s once bright optimism. As someone who will hopefully be jumping into the creative industry in a matter of years, I can only wonder how much of Shirobako’s trials and tribulations I have to look forward to, and whether my own story is going to be an Aoi or a Hiraoka. As a 3D animator, I rather appreciated the minor plot point in this week’s episode where Misa comes to Ema for animation help. Ema gave some genuinely helpful advice for any aspiring 3D animator and while I have my qualms about CG in many anime, I’m grateful that Shirobako recognizes its importance in modern works. Finally, while it’s not within the purview of my knowledge, my heart absolutely goes out to poor Zuka, who seems to be PA Works’ whipping boy. The way she’s getting treated in this show is so depressingly realistic that I can’t help but wonder if they picked the voice actor as the show’s butt monkey as some kind of passive aggressive snipe at how much better anime voice actors get paid.

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Shirobako – The Worst OTP

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Garo: The Animation
Episode 22

Fridays 12:23 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee

Aqua: Aha, looks like Germán was not a traitor after all! But Garm is… or not… Ehm, we’ll find out in due time, I guess? Also, why did Germán bring down the elevator and hurt himself as soon as León and co. made their way into Mendoza’s secret lair? Anyways, writing logically sound conclusions has never been Yasuko Kobayashi’s strong point (hello, Kamen Rider Den-O), but her talent for writing fantastically nuanced characters still shines through, even in this subcontracted episode. While team Dorks ends up in the present for some reason — a sadly missed opportunity to have Kouga or one of the other Garo successors from the original live-action series make a cameo appearance — Germán gets to kick some serious Horror ass. Though the lack of any kind of revelatory flashback or emotionally-charged fight makes this episode a bit of a padding effort, it is ultimately saved mostly by the charismatic Germán and his swashbuckling fighting style. The very best moment of the episode, and one of the series’ highlights, comes at the very end, however, when a weakened Germán sees the monster Octavia has become and mourns her lost beauty. It’s a tragic, but outstandingly human reflection on their respective story arcs: The kind, but perverted knight who fights to save the innocent, and the waifish, but two-faced maiden who perverted herself for evil. Speaking of perverted, what the hell is up with those nipple pin thingies? Did the 90s come back when I wasn’t looking?

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Death Parade
Episode 10

Fridays 1:30 pm EST on Funimation

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

Artemis: This episode of Death Parade was probably the quietest of the series we’ve had yet, and certainly the most intimate. With the exception of one of the very final scenes, everything was for once precisely as it appeared… yet far from making the episode dull or lacklustre, it provided the perfect atmosphere for introspection and quiet but weighty emotional impact. The Assistant is named at last – Chiyuki, which either completely appropriately or completely inappropriately is written with the kanji for ‘knowledge’ and ‘happiness’/’good fortune’ – and we get our first real glimpse into her past. Perhaps more importantly however, all that mannequin imagery is given yet more significance as we discover that Chiyuki seems to be quite literally turning into one; a fact which both she and Decim are now aware of. This not only paints the ending credits in an all new light, but also serves to further add to the symbolic coherency of the series as a whole.

Jel: An episode of quiet introspection is just what we needed after two weeks of intense, over the top drama. Death Old Maid turns out to be pretty inconsequential. There was no question that sweet old lady was destined for a positive after life, and the game itself just turned into a lovely trip down memory lane. It was a rather masterful way to ease Chiyuki (hey, we can call her something now!) into her judgement without forcing the situation, letting her piggyback onto the memory jogging cards and slowly revealing her story. Of course the big question is what will happen to her now that her time is up? It depends on what kind of message Death Parade wants to send. Will she end up as another one of Decim’s mannequin guests, highlighting a respect for life despite the inevitability of death? Or is there another twist in store as the suddenly terrifying Oculus catches on to Nona’s scheming? I don’t have any answers to those questions but I sure do want to find out.

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Death Parade – I guess she was born with that cute emo goth girl hair

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Log Horizon II
Episode 23

Saturdays 7:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Gee, Iro, Marlin, Timmy

Iro: It really feels as though the anime staff is scrambling to find any random side-story crap they can get to fill time in these last few episodes. This week focuses on Isaac, who’s been a minor character at best, and Iselus, who was only introduced an episode ago. Iselus is a generic precocious kid, which works well enough, but playing him off with gruff-but-really-a-nice-guy Isaac is so cliche it’s boring. On the bright side, there’s a surprisingly heartfelt conversation about returning to the “real world” at the start of the episode (Rudy is remarkably understanding about his best friends talking like his world is a false one), and the episode cliffhanger promises at least a bit of action to wind down the season.

Marlin: It’s a bit of a shame that we can tell this show is simply buying for time before it drops its season-ending cliffhanger on us. With Lander aggressions on the rise, I wonder if we’ll even get to see a Westelande invasion before we’re through. I hope DEEN is pretty confident in a season 3, as this has all been mediocre developments so far. It seems pretty surprising that despite all their advancements the adventurers haven’t figured out how to generate a radio signal yet. Sure, electricity was a hard-won invention in our world, but they would know all the innovations that would need to be created to make it happen, and of a pool of 20000 nerds there have to be at least a few electrical engineers right? Makes me wonder if a message from the moon will be the last thing we ever hear of this show.

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Maria the Virgin Witch
Episode 10

Sundays 9:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Jel, Marlin

Jel: I don’t even know what half the characters are doing anymore. Last week ended with Bernard’s very uncharacteristic breakdown and this week we get the normally pragmatic Viv picking a fight she has no chance of winning. Throw in the docile Joseph flipping the switch on his hidden bloodlust and everyone is flip-flopping all over the place. I guess it was kind of cool to see Edwina do her thing and I’m glad Maria seems to be out of the Damsel zone, but I’m just having trouble caring at this point. Had they actually killed off Viv they would have definitely grabbed my attention, but with everyone on the mend and gearing up for the final battle I feel like this is going to all go down exactly the way you think it will. Hopefully at some point in the final few episodes Maria will put out a few surprises, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

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Yurikuma Arashi – If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends

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Yatterman Night
Episode 10

Sundays 10:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Gee, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Gee: Real talk: At the very start of this week’s episode, I mused to myself how the leader of the Dorombo thieves, Dokurobei, had yet to show up. Consequently, I surmised that the big twist was going to be that either Dokurobei was the actual ringleader of the new Yattermen this whole time, or that the original Yattermen were hooked up to some kind of horrible life-extending machine, unable to die. It’s episodes like these that really keep me invested in Yatterman Night. With the curtain finally pulled away, while I had accidentally predicted the actual twist, it still felt like a grand reveal. And that’s thanks to Yatterman Night’s fantastic job of crafting an engaging universe with compelling characters. That said, with the endgame finally on the table, I wonder where things are going to go from here. I love Leopard’s unyielding determination, but with Gallina steadily stealing the spotlight, I have this sneaking feeling that he’s going to be the lynchpin that saves the day rather than her or her gang.

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Yurikuma Arashi
Episode 10

Mondays 1:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Artemis, Aquagaze, Jel, Marlin, Zigg

Jel: From the chilling opening scene to Lulu’s surprisingly sad departure, Yurikuma delivers another strong episode this week. That single tear from Lulu when she changed back to a bear almost choked me up for a second. Through some fantastic build up and direction, you could feel the painful weight of realizing you’re never going to reach your most important goal in life. Ouch. I also appreciated we were able to see two characters connect for reasons other than lust or rage, which only further twisted the knife as Lulu walked through The Door. Speaking of which, am I the only one that finds it hilarious that the lily garden is a gateway to the bear world? MIGHT EXPLAIN THAT MURDEROUS BEAR INFESTATION YOU GALS HAVE THERE… but I digress. With Lulu out of the picture and Kureha in a tight spot, the stage is set for Ginko to return next week. Hopefully that will be enough for Yurikuma to turn its last few episodes into a strong ending.

Marlin: Coming off a fantastic week, Yurikuma continues to deliver on its good storytelling. Lulu and Kureha never had a chance for their own heart to heart, so this long-needed chance is something this show really needed. Lulu was selfish, yes, but all of the girls have been selfish in their pursuit of love. By sacrificing her own happiness and revealing her story to Kureha, Lulu broke her own mirror, making the first selfless move in the entire show. While it seems that a lot of the show really was less allegory and more fairy tale, the bear killing beam still seems to be a continuation on the theme of hypocrisy. The only way to break the rules is to hide them or institutionalize them. Last week we saw how the girls hide after Life Sexy’s speech, now the girls are literally using bears to fuel their witch hunt. I think it is still important to remember that girls were killed for targeting Kureha. It would appear that is considered a non-issue in comparison to the fulfillment of love, which is a whole different allegory entirely.

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