Meeting Is Such Bitter Joy – Jujutsu Kaisen (Episode Three)
In this episode, our duo (trio if you count Blindfold) becomes a trio (quartet if you count Blindfold). Side note: I still don’t know Blindfold’s name off the top of my head. Regardless, our lead characters are joined by a girl from the countryside who just makes the most charming first impression. Side note: I am being very sarcastic. From the second she is introduced, Nobara (I looked up her name) makes all manner of assumptions based solely on how Yuji and Fushiguro introduce themselves. Though abrasive, people aren’t generally chummy with everybody they’ve met for all of ten seconds; so, realistically, it tracks. What confuses me, however, is the fact that Nobara’s entire backstory revolves around her hatred for the people of her hometown, whose judgemental nature drove her friend to move away. Again, human nature is fickle, but boy does it set up a contradictory meeting. Nobara does show moments of joviality, geeking out with Yuji about the highlights of the big city, but she quickly returns to her prickly self. Still, Nobara knows how to weaponise nails, and that’s cool. The aura surrounding her nails—the construction kind, by the way, not her fingernails—looks cool and their unearthly, precise movements add to the mystery of her manner of exorcism. This episode also establishes that she has much more room to grow, having only dealt with countryside Curses—who are canonically stupider than those from the city. It’s an interesting mechanic of the universe, as it allows Nobara to enter the story with inherent skill, but still be on the same playing field as her classmates. This also somewhat contrasts Yuji, whose raw power and confidence make up for his lack of knowledge and allow him to stand on said playing field. I’m not sure how Fushiguro fits into this metaphor yet, but I’m sure we’ll learn in time.
All in all, this episode existed to show where our characters are starting from. Nobara seems to have knowledge, but needs to work on her emotional fortitude; Yuji has the fortitude, but needs to work on his knowledge. And speaking of fortitude and knowledge: what the heck was up with that kid they saved? First of all, why was he in an abandoned building? Second, how did he not absolutely lose his mind when he was held hostage by a monster? And third, how did they just let him go home afterwards? Are they just banking on the fact his parents won’t believe him? Did they wipe his memory with magic? Are they going to pay for his therapy? I know it isn’t the point of the episode, but gee whiz. Oh, and on the topic of things that are slightly off topic: what was up with Fushiguro agreeing with Nobara that eating Sukuna’s finger was a gross thing for Yuji to do? I mean, they’re not wrong, but Yuji did that to save Fushiguro; the guy could have a little respect. So, anyway…Nobara turned up this episode; I guess that’s the main takeaway. Oh, and she also has voodoo magic that makes Curses explode. It’s both cool and gross.
Body Blow – Iwakakeru -Sport Climbing Girls- (Episode Three)
In this episode, we learn that climbing requires a tremendous amount of physical fortitude. I mean, we already knew this—on account of climbing being a sport that makes you tired by watching it—but this episode really drives this point home. One rather callous example of this learning process comes when Nono calls Konomi “chubby”…and nobody even slightly disagrees. Now, I understand that athletes possess a more honed physical form than the average person, but in what world is Konomi chubby? It’s not even that Nono makes a point that Konomi needs to build muscle and stamina—which is the purported reasoning behind the training—she just tells her that she should lose weight. What’s weird to me is that it seemed like this was going to play out as a joke, with somebody bonking Nono on the head for being mean…but that never happens. Instead, Konomi just spends a portion of the episode repeating the word “chubby” over and over. It’s all just kinda mean. And even ignoring the concept of body types, the reality is that each character in this series looks pretty much the same: art-wise, there’s not much variation. I think the furthest the shows delves into that territory is giving Jun visible abs. Even when getting emotional, the character’s faces don’t stray too far from their resting position; it all just makes the characters feel…samey. I’m not sure if that’s why characters tend to verbalise every thought they have, at least to themselves, but it certain helps clarify what emotion they’re feeling at any given time. Of course, the visuals could also do that, but beggars can’t be choosers.
As far as actual plot goes, the team is really throwing Konomi into the deep end. Though she is fresh to the sport, part of her acclimatisation comes in the form of Anti-Monkey Rock—aptly named for being a boulder that even creatures notorious for climbing cannot traverse. Also, how are a group of fifteen-year-old girls allowed to just travel Japan to climb a dangerous rock? Is there no supervision in this world? Well, we know the answer to that last one, on account of us meeting one of Japan’s greatest climbers…who has been letting his daughter climb since before she was in middle school. Also, his daughter is currently in middle school. Still, Kiku—said daughter—is a pretty fun addition to the cast. With a relative monotone, she dubs Konomi her Master (in gaming), sends the hardest path on Anti-Monkey Rock, and posits that she wouldn’t even mind Konomi becoming her mother (based on her extrapolating Konomi’s comment about it being good that Kiku loves her father). Honestly, I feel like we know more about Kiku than we do about Nono or…the blonde girl who leads the team. You know, the captain-y one? Also, how old is Kiku’s father supposed to be? Dude’s got long white hair, but he’s drawn like a twenty-year-old. S’weird.
Strength of Character – Haikyu!! To the Top (Episode Sixteen)
Okay, who was the person that decided to call back to the most heart wrenching episode of Haikyu!!? Because I will find them, and I will give them a stern talking to. That’s right, we’re once again shown elements of when Tanaka mistakes his childhood friend’s brother for her boyfriend, giving up on any chances for romance. This, of course, is made worse by the fact that Kanoka—the childhood friend—actually has feelings for Tanaka…and is also adorable. Needless to say, this less-than-ideal romantic scenario has left Tanaka little off his game, a fact that Inarizaki is quick to exploit. Though exploiting an opponents weakness is a fairly standard strategy, Haikyu!! once again uses this facet of sport to villainise Karasuno’s current rival. We care about Tanaka, we understand his emotions; hell, we were there when it all happened. All we know about Inarizaki is that they’re trying to exploit the conflicted mental state of Tanaka. The jerks. That being said, this situation does give us some insight into one of the more overlook members of Karasuno and how others perceive him. Simply put, a lot of people respect Tanaka’s forthright nature and marvel at his ability to remain so stalwart in his beliefs. It’s honestly an interesting and rather heart-warming viewpoint on a character who is normally just relegated to being “the loud one”. That being said, our glimpse into Tanaka’s thoughts during this match show that his will is not unflappable. Being surrounded by such amazing players, Tanaka occasionally finds himself depressed by his relative averageness—once every six months or so, if we’re to believe him. However, these bouts of melancholy are rather swiftly quashed by Tanaka’s simple desire to not give up. Heck, Tsukishima doesn’t even notice that Tanaka was ever mentally out of sorts at all. Sure that point is played as a joke, but it does show how each player perceives the match in their own way.
So yeah, this episode is mostly about Tanaka showing how powerful optimism can be. Maybe not even optimism, maybe just a desire to progress. That’s what everybody respects Tanaka for, after all: his ability to persevere. Heck, the dude even has the crowd cheering specifically for him. I mean, Karasuno even takes the first set in this episode and that’s almost a backdrop to Tanaka’s story. Think about that: the volleyball takes a backseat. The volleyball in Haikyu!! That’s an impressive feat. Also, mad props to Yu Hayashi—Tanaka’s voice actor—for his performance in this episode. It takes a certain skill to make a full-volume scream sound subtly forced and insincere. Also, I never thought the word “left” would ever carry such emotional and thematic resonance. Admit it, you didn’t either. Right?
Dark Lord Rising – Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai (Episode Three)
And just like that, we get an answer to the question we were left with last week. The Dark Lord is indeed back, and his dark influence is beginning to affect the monsters on Dai’s island as well. Lucky for Dai, Master Avan and his apprentice Popp rock up at just the right time to put a protection spell over the island and the monsters impacted. From here, the episode focuses on Dai as he begins to train under the tutelage of Master Avan.
The majority of this episode is made up of training segments, such as Avan tasking Dai to run with boulders and rocks tied to his back or having Dai attempt to slice a boulder in half. Dai appears to show great talent in sword play, something that Avan takes note of. Furthermore, while it appeared last week that Dai had now mastered casting magic, it is back to square one with Dai unable to cast even the most basic of spells.
This was overall a bit of a breeze of an episode, it went by very fast and yet, unlike prior episodes, it didn’t feel like as much happened. That said, we are left with quite a doozy of a cliffhanger with the appearance of the iconic Dragon Quest dragon monster—which looks to put Dai’s newfound abilities to the test next week. For now, this ultimately felt like a bit of a pit-stop episode, despite it finally kicking the series plot into gear with the Dark Lord rearing his ugly head. I’m excited to see where things go as the series ramps up into more serialised story telling, going forward, rather than “enemy of the week” affairs that we have been subjected to thus far. All in all, this was a slower—yet necessary—reset episode that is laying the groundwork for the battles to come with the Dark Lord and his minions.
Nonsense Neverland – Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon (Episode Three)
Let me begin by saying: what in the hell did I just watch? Seriously, that has to be one of the most schizophrenic anime episodes I have ever watched in my life. It begins where we left off last week, with Towa saving the others from the centipede demon and breaking her sword in the process. We see her finish off the centipede demon pretty quickly here and then try to reconcile with her sister Setsuna—only Setsuna doesn’t remember having a sister at all. Setsuna challenges Towa to a fight to prove she is her sister. How a fight would prove someone is your sibling, I have no idea. Towa naturally doesn’t want to fight, but coincidentally a parasitic tree-root demon appears suddenly out of nowhere, takes control of Towa, and decides to fight Setsuna. Next thing we know, Towa summons a light sabre out of nowhere and brings the fight hard to Setsuna. Demon-Possessed Towa is absolutely dominating this fight until, for no explicable reason, the demon decides to switch vessels and take control of Towa’s present-day adoptive sister, Mei (a little girl with no spiritual powers at all). It is at this point Setsuna reveals she has a spell that puts everyone to sleep and also has a potion that immediately kills the demon, removing it from Mei’s body. The episode ends with all the girls at Towa’s house where we learn that due to a curse placed on her by a butterfly, Setsuna has never in her life been able to sleep. The episode ends there.
None of that episode made any logical sense; it seemed like we were going from one random scenario to the next without any rhyme or reason. There was a brief scene in the past where characters just straight up announce that Towa and Setsuna are actually the daughters of Sesshomaru, not Inuyasha and Kagome as thought. However, Moroha the bounty hunter may actually be the daughter of Kagome and Inuyasha according to present-day grandma, who is certain of her parentage simply by looking at her eyes. This series is about as subtle as a brick to the jaw when it comes to its narrative delivery and about as nuanced as a sledgehammer to the groin when it comes to its dialogue. Characters just say things because the plot needs them to, not because it makes sense for them to say that.
This was a massive step backwards for Yashahime, which continues to struggle finding its footing. It’s now been three episodes and this series still seems to have trouble getting going. This is not a good sign for things to come. I don’t know how many episodes this anime is supposed to be, but it doesn’t appear to be trying to get anywhere in a hurry. This was an absolute mind-boggling disaster of an episode that made less sense with each passing second. I hope that the series can course correct, going forward, but these first three episodes have done little to inspire much hope from me that the team behind the series have any clue what they are doing with this anime.
Going Viral – Ikebukuro West Gate Park (Episode Three)
This week on IWGP, we follow Makoto as he investigates a popular YouTuber in Ikebukuro at the behest of G-Boys leader, King. The YouTuber has gone viral for his bizarre videos, which feature him eating raw onions in a variety of strange locations around Ikebukuro. Things take a turn when a rival YouTube channel begins to make violent threats against the onion eater. Makoto organizes for the G-Boys to watch over the viral star and protect him from the gorilla-masked YouTubers who seek to prevent his fifth-anniversary special video.
As Makoto digs deeper into the matter, several members of the G-Boys are jumped—which does not sit well with their leader “King” Takashi. Ultimately, it turns out that things aren’t quite what they seem with the viral star. We see the lengths at which these social media “celebrities” are willing to go in order to maintain their status. It is an interesting social commentary and the first episode of IWGP thus far that feels like it is stepping out of the shadow of the live-action drama that preceded it, making its own path with a unique, modern take on the Ikebukuro cultural landscape.
I was pleased to see that this episode injected some much needed comedic relief into the series, and I think this case may be the most focused and well conceived one yet. It is worth noting that the Red Angels that we were introduced to somewhat last episode, have essentially taken a backseat. I hope that we will get to see more of them, going forward, as the gangland warfare is a big part of what made the live-action dramas.
Overall, this episode was a nice return to form for IWGP that shows the series can really hit the sweet spot by not simply trying to recreate the live-action drama, but by adapting it for modern audiences; understanding what works and what doesn’t in this format.