The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 10

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 In this week’s installment…

More death and tragedy all over the place as Garo, Death Parade, Yatterman, and Yurikuma continue to deny us happiness. Fortunately Shirobako delivers the best episode of the season, but even that makes us shed a tear for completely different reasons.

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 23

Thursdays 11:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Marlin

Aqua: My Twitter feed has been positively overflowing with praise for Shirobako ever since this episode aired, and it’s hard not to see why. This episode was a concise statement of everything Shirobako set out to achieve: a remarkable reflection on creativity and commerce with all the laughs and tears human life consists of. It’s Kinoshita’s hilarious assault on the editorial offices that steals the show, but the clever analog between Musani’s anime and the goings on behind its scenes that truly seals the deal. It’s no coincidence The Third Aerial Girls Squad is about a team of five young girls working in a field where you usually wouldn’t expect to see them — a bit of a constant in Nogame’s work, if Hiraoka is to be believed. As Catherine died on the show, Shizuka gave up her dreams, to the point where she even urged Aoi not to introduce her as an aspiring voice actress two episodes ago. On the otehr hand, the link between Aoi and Aerial Girls heroine Aria has always been pretty obvious, but it’s Shizuka’s very first line as a professional voice actress that truly shows what Kinoshita was talking about when he said he looked at the Aerial Girls as his own colleagues. In the end, Shirobako itself is a perfect example of the philosophies it set out to preach. Like The Third Aerial Girls Squad, Shirobako looked like yet another run-of-the-mill snorefest ripe for disregard. Beyond all expectations, however, it turned out to brim with the genuine passion it loves to propagate without ever compromising on its idealistic moe roots. Yet the strangest thing of all is that Shirobako remains so utterly small in scale, so humble in its messages. It seems to have no idea how exceptional, how progressive, how sincere it actually is. Looks like that means it’s up to us to remember.

Gee: In some ways, this week’s episode of Shirobako was somewhat predictable. However, where it deserves its outstanding praise is from its execution. Largely focusing on the culmination of a few longstanding plot threads, this week’s episode was a masterclass of visual storytelling, encapsulating everything that makes the show tick. Kinoshita’s fantastic march on the publishing office was capped off with a genuinely heartfelt conversation between two creators. Despite its silliness, you can feel the creative passion that radiates from the characters involved, proving that at its heart, the best men and women in the creative industries aren’t necessarily the most talented or efficient, but the ones who sincerely love the work they do. And of course, Zuka’s role in this episode cannot be understated. You can just tell that the animators put all their time and effort into the scene, and it really shows. Aoi’s reaction being communicated purely through body language was executed phenomenally well, and reached me emotionally in a way I never could have expected Shirobako to be capable of. Shirobako has been a very special ride, and I cannot wait to see how it reaches its destination.

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Garo: The Animation
Episode 23

Fridays 12:23 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee

Aqua: Damn. What a rollercoaster this episode was. After a significant stretch of exposition and character development, Garo is pulling out all the slops for its finale, with more action, awkward monster nudity and apparent deaths than you can shake a stick at. While I’ve seen some people complaining about Germàn’s off-screen demise, I can understand that showing it would’ve severely reduced the impact of Mendoza’s big reveal. It’s worth it, as León’s austere reaction shows just how far he’s come. He’s no longer so weak as to let his emotions be toyed with. He knows what he wants, and he knows his father must have died for the same reasons. Besides, didn’t Germán awkwardly anticipate his own death last episode? Something tells me the guy’s not actually dead. Same for… well, everyone else, really. But hey, if you’re gonna have a spikey castle hanging upside down in the night sky and a hideous demi-fiend enjoying the sight of an old priest’s severed arm just a tad bit too much, you might as well seal the deal on your edge-factor by seemingly killing off your entire cast. All Garo lacks is an Iron Maiden soundtrack to be the most hilariously metal thing in the entire eastern hemisphere. Its biggest strength, however, is its ability to combine that ridiculous aesthetic with the intrigue, characterization and surprising complexity we’d expect of a wholly different show. Even though it segues into its finale by having the hero be nearly devoured by a topless monstrosity — not Freudian at all, no sir — Garo miraculously manages to stay serious in spite of its relentless camp factor. It’s far from flawless, but it’s still a mystery to me how something so over-the-top can keep on demanding so much of my respect. One thing is for certain: I sure as heck am gonna miss Garo when it bows out next week.

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Death Parade – I’ll avoid any tasteless Tonya Harding jokes. That’s still relevant in 2015, right?

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Death Parade
Episode 11

Fridays 1:30 pm EST on Funimation

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

Artemis: This episode of Death Parade left me with the distinct feeling that the show is saving all the big guns for the finale. It wasn’t a bad episode per se, but it had neither the wonderfully intimate atmosphere of the previous one nor the excitement or drama of others. As such, it made for a competent watch, but not an especially gripping one, and most scenes simply seemed there to help pad out the revelations already obtained earlier on; it was probably the closest thing to a filler episode that the show has had. The characters are interesting enough in their own right that I didn’t really mind, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing how things are going to be wrapped up.

Jel: I have to disagree as I thought this was one of Death Parade’s stronger episodes. We’ve been waiting so long to learn about Chiyuki that I was OK with a slow, deliberate reveal. I was also impressed with the very compelling depiction of Chiyuki’s depression. It felt like it came from someone that has been there before. The conclusion of Mayu and Harada’s story served as the emotional gut punch needed to keep things exciting. I laughed at first because I didn’t realize Harada was still around, but then the laughter ended VERY ABRUPTLY. Ginki’s deception was a lot harsher than I expected but I couldn’t help but note he at least let them die together. Am I just being too optimistic there? Either way, I’m super excited for the finale, which I’m expecting to be totally soul crushing at this point. I suppose Nona could pull something off last minute but that would run the risk of undermining Death Parade’s value of life and death that it’s established so beautifully up until now.

Iro: Chiyuki’s flashback was the most accurate depiction of depression I’ve ever seen in anime.

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Log Horizon II
Episode 24

Saturdays 7:30 am EST on Crunchyroll

Watching: Gee, Iro, Marlin, Timmy

Iro: Considering the stakes of the current conflict (and the fact we’re caught up to the novels), I’m hedging my bets that the whole Shibuya raid and moon business is an anime-original ending. It all feels a bit rushed, and Shiroe’s sudden apprehension at potentially destroying the antenna (they’ve built remote hologram machines, surely an antenna isn’t out of the question) is nothing if not forced. That said, this entire second season has dealt more with individual’s reactions to being trapped in a game as opposed to the first season’s societal reactions, so it’s a thematically appropriate conflict, and it’s a great moment to see Shiroe jump right back into full villain-in-glasses mode as the ED lead-in plays. I’m looking forward to the finale.

Marlin: Both Iro and I noted that this raid almost seemed like an anime original ending. It certainly has the feel of it, what with the only people immune to this new moth AOE all happening to be prominent characters, even including our vastly underleveled kids. Despite that, it doesn’t feel off from Log Horizon’s message, about the value of real lives over this foreign fantasy. Rudy is especially understanding in all of this. Without saying anything, it’s obvious that a lot has happened in Rudy’s life, and it’s allowed him to stay so strong even while his only friends might leave him behind. He understands the desire to go back because he probably has nowhere to go back himself. It’s at the end where we finally see that even Shiroe is not immune to his desires. He understands the likelihood of success meaning the end of his hopes to return home, and it prevents him from taking action. It’s by the reminder of everyone that he realizes he shouldn’t be afraid of what may come, that in the end he’s always had the power to try and change things the way he wants them. With some actual stakes at hand, I’m glad we’re getting some good excitement before the end of the series.

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Log Horizon – I can see the ending!

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Maria the Virgin Witch
Episode 11

Sundays 9:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Aquagaze, Gee, Jel, Marlin

Jel: Alright girls remember it’s cool to be yourself and all, but in order to feel TRULY fulfilled you better go and find yourself a man! I don’t think that’s what the author intended to be the message here but that is how it came off to me. Rather than being a sweet romantic moment, Joseph and Maria’s double confession and subsequent flying around like a giddy school girl kind of undermined her whole purpose up until now. Stopping the fighting, making medicine, and other unselfish acts were ultimately trumped by her own personal happiness. It’s not that she doesn’t deserve it, it just runs contrary to the message up until now. Maybe there was never any message and this was just meant to be a love story after all? I’d like to give Maria more credit than that but I’m not sure I can.

Marlin: This was super dumb. Jel’s pretty much nailed ever point on the head, so all I’m gonna add is that in addition to the story being super lazy at the end, the animation got absolutely terrible. The CG cauldron was ugly, and having all the monsters be shrouded by fog was a cheap way of not having to animate them wrecking stuff up. This show was already going nowhere, but I never expected it to be this disappointing by the end.

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Yatterman Night
Episode 11

Sundays 10:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Gee, Iro, Jel, Marlin

Gee: Yatterman Night continues its perfect balance of humor and heart this week, as both the Yatterman government’s facade is revealed and our heroes make their subsequent escape. Props to the usage of old footage as well as some medium humor with the VCR cassettes. It’s a savvy and entertaining way of getting some necessary exposition out of the way while simultaneously establishing how hilariously petty our final villain is. However, the bigger event this week is perhaps Goro’s sacrifice at the end, concluding the overarching thread of his true identity and connection to Alouette. It’s your standard heroic last stand, but it’s done with a sense of drama and flair befitting of Yatterman Night. Nobuyuki Hiyama’s excellent voice work helps to sell it as well. With our true villain established, it seems pretty clear where the show intends to go from here, and it’s another finale I’m looking forward to this season.

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Yurikuma Arashi – She never gave up on love.

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Yurikuma Arashi
Episode 11

Mondays 1:30 am EST on Funimation

Watching: Artemis, Aquagaze, Jel, Marlin, Zigg

Jel: I’ve been trying to avoid talking about Penguindrum but I just want to mention that Ikuhara’s previous work was heavily inspired by a children’s fantasy story called Night On the Galactic Railroad. So as soon as Life Beauty mentions this story is “just like The Little Mermaid“, all kinds of bells went off in my head. Ginko’s deal to become a girl checks out plot wise, but it runs deeper than that. There’s a popular theory that Hans Christian Andersen wrote the original Little Mermaid as an allegory for his own romantic feelings toward a man that rejected him. As taboo as homosexuality would have been in the 1830’s, there was as much chance of them being together as a mermaid and a human. Also interestingly enough, the original non-Disney version required the mermaid to kill the prince if she wanted to continue being a human, but she chooses not to in the end. Instead she dissolves into sea foam and ascends to some weird form of mermaid heaven. From there, it’s not too hard to draw the parallels to Yurikuma. Just swap “mermaid” for “bear” and you’re good.

Adding that bit of clarity to Lulu’s predictable yet tragic sacrifice made this a great penultimate episode. That poor girl (bear?) couldn’t catch a break this entire series, and seeing her Promise Kiss smashed followed by handing the remains of the story book to Ginko… it was tough to swallow. The question now is will Yurikuma be like Disney’s The Little Mermaid where love conquers all, or will this be like the original Hans Christian Andersen tale of a romance that was never meant to be? I’m leaning towards the happy ending but either way I’m excited for the finale.

Marlin: Now I’m a little confused. I felt like I was getting Yurikuma after the manifestation of desire business. It seemed like a logical conclusion to the story of these girls truly discovering what their love amounted to. Now, with Ginko casting aside that desire, it seems to be going back to a more ideal kind of love. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect Lulu to pop back in so quickly, but it was a strong performance from a character who’s been mostly a comic relief this whole time. The way her dying words simply ends, with no fanfare whatsoever, was incredibly poignant. I can’t wait for next week’s finale. On a goofier note, I was a bit disappointed that Life Sexy never said Shabadadoo. Kmon man, you had one job.

5 thoughts on “The Roundup: Winter 2015 Volume 10

  1. I ended up only watching Shirobako and Durarara loyally this season. And please shoot me, I wanted to know how the trainwreck which is Ald.Noah Zero would end so I followed that too.

    In a season with Durarara, Shirobako still wins it for me. Looking forward to the finale this week!

    • Yeah, Shirobako has done a lot right. I was initially disappointed that everything was going to turn out happily ever after for the girls, but the scene was directed so well that I couldn’t help but feel the emotional intent of the story.
      In the interest of morbid curiosity, how is Aldnoah?

        • I actually have only been able to sit through a few episodes as I’ve found a lot of Shirobako boring. My brain shuts off when they start getting into the actual details of making anime. It’s worth checking out and deciding for yourself though.

  2. Garo and Yatterman penultimate episodes were excellent. Winters stand outs if you ask me. Yattermans final villain is ridiculous and it’s back story. An alien with a shitty attitude towards losing. heh

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