So the #anitwitwatches crew just finished up SSSS. Gridman this week. Since the only real controversy I see out in AniTwitter is whether Goku could beat up Superman, well, I thought it would be interesting to draw up a list.
(And by the way, Superman wins.)
What is #anitwitwatches you might ask? It’s a community project arranged by Jon Spencer over at Jon Spencer Reviews and for about the last year and a half, we have been watching a show every Monday.
It’s generally a fun exercise because it gets me to watch some shows that I’ve never seen. Many that I’ve never heard of, and some that I have only heard about by reputation. We’re on a bit of a hiatus at the moment, but we’re going to be starting in early April.
So before I start in the listing, I do want to make a couple of things clear. With one notable exception, I think these shows are good. If I were ranking them on a 1-10 scale, I would say most of them are between six and nine.
Also, I joined during the third season, so there are two shows and one movie that I haven’t watched. I don’t have rankings for them.
Because people who follow this blog know what is going to be on the bottom of that list, I will start there and work up.
So let’s begin.
I did an entire post about why I dislike this show, but I will put it into some numerical perspective. If I were going to take that 1-10 scale, I would say there are large sections of this show that are a three or a four, there are other sections that are a five or a six and there are small slivers that are a seven or an eight.
I’m not sure if it’s intentionally a mess or just accidentally one, but, overall, Kanon fails at the primary thing it’s trying to do, which is to make me feel sad. The bright sparkles amid the dreary death march are not enough to propel this show any higher.
While I’m inclined to say Kanon is bad, I will accept that it’s just not a show for me, so the flaws are magnified.
Let’s move on before I start to rant.
The Perfect Insider
When we talked about The Perfect Insider, I feel like there are two sides to the discussion. Some people enjoyed the mystery and some people were interested in the main antagonist.
The mystery is fine. Even with a few logical problems, I found it compelling and did want to know what the solution was. I could see myself going back to watch it again just to see where the clues were laid out.
This was the part of the show I enjoyed.
The problem for me is the antagonist, who we see through a series of flashbacks as she seduces her uncle, kills her family and finally ends up escaping. My problem is the creators saddled her with one of my least favorite tropes. Any evil woman also needs to be sexually aggressive, and if she can be sexually deviant, even better.
To make it even more frustrating, it’s not particularly tied to a thematic thread. For the life of me, I can’t see why they did that other than to convince the audience that, “Yes. She is really wrong in the head.”
Besides, the parallels drawn between her and the professor don’t excite me. It’s just another Moriarty poking at another Holmes.
Only this one slept with her uncle. Woo woo.
I feel guilty putting School Days this low. At times, it’s better than some of the other titles on this list. Its characters have more depth than Gridman. Its got more emotion than Girls’ Last Tour. And the persistent sense of dread that runs through the middle episodes is as good as Another.
The problem is that the show took a hard left in episode 9 and committed to it. From the point where he sleeps with Katou, the show becomes less a drama about infidelity and more of a countdown to destruction.
Each episode after that, the show piles a little more dirt on its grave. Have him sleep with the ultra-loyal Setsuna? Sure. Have him bang Hikari who has shown no interest in him until now? Yep. The mean girls? Why not.
The show took what had been a taut character drama and turned it into a mockery of itself. And it did it all because of its slavish devotion to its theme.
Then we get the kicker. The show ends with an epilogue that blames it all on Sekai. Because of course Makoto doesn’t have any moral culpability. He suddenly magically changed because he had sex.
Yep. Eff you School Days. EFF YOU.
It’s two-thirds of a good story and one-third of a bad one, which is why it ends up this low on the list.
When I was putting this list together, these next three shows really could be in any order. I think they’re all good in more ways than they are bad, and I would feel comfortable recommending them to most people.
But with any list, I have to put them into some sort of order. So here it is.
I like Gridman for what it does well. It’s a well-directed action show where toys come to life on the screen and bash into each other.
Unlike Kanon, it tells a story with stakes and emotion. The fight scenes in the show had the same kind of energy that I see in a show like Kill la Kill. And unlike, The Perfect Insider, I didn’t find myself cringing at the characters or vaguely disgusted by what the show was trying to do.
Everything about the show is perfectly acceptable.
That said, anytime an escapist piece of fiction tries to present the theme that escapism is bad, it runs into trouble. Gridman isn’t any different. Gridman’s fights, while fun, do take away screen time from the other story the writers are trying to tell rather than adding to it.
They also abandon subplots for no real apparent reason. And rather than try to sculpt Yuta into a character that serves as some sort of foil for Akane, he just exists in the story. Ironically, he is the thing that the show is complaining about — an audience stand-in participating in a piece of escapist fiction.
The show may have worked if it was 24 episodes rather than 12, but unfortunately, everything being crammed together does make for a few scenes that fell flat toward the end.
My verdict for Gridman is that it’s a fun show, but not much more than that.
Girls’ Last Tour
Girls’ Last Tour is a hard show for me to quantify. When I watched it, I was mostly ambivalent toward it. The girls spend a lot of their time driving mindlessly through a vast empty city. Much of their adventures don’t amount to more than finding someplace to stop and performing some menial task.
The moments of dramatic tension are few and far between.
I did like the sense that the audience was like an archaeologist in an abandoned world. I spent time wondering what the daily lives of the people inside those buildings were like. I wanted to know about the society that tore itself apart. Or even the history of the girls.
The show never delivered answers to those questions.
All of that said, I enjoyed Girls’ Last Tour a lot more after I wrote a blog post about Yuu being the show’s moral center. When I did that everything that happened in the show clicked into place and I realized it’s an existential parable. The theme of cheerily embracing hopelessness works well in this story.
I find I enjoy it more with distance, but I’m not sure if I’m ever going to go back and watch it again.
I do miss the cat-snakes though.
The Rolling Girls
The Rolling Girls is just a delightful show. Watching Nozomi, Ai, Yukina and Chiaya stumble their way through the plot until they finally come to a solution is great.
That’s not mentioning the cast of colorful characters that surround the four as they travel to new sections of Japan. I found myself truly emotionally invested in the stories. To the point where I may have shed some tears.
Add to this, that the show did a great job with the theme of finding the hero inside of yourself and not letting others dictate who you are.
It does everything I want from this kind of fiction. It had stakes. It had good characters. It had a plot that moved forward.
My only complaint is that Nozomi and Ai hogged much of the screen time. While their conflict was interesting, it took away from Chiaya and, to an even greater extent, Yuki. Our perpetually lost heroine felt more like comic relief than a real character trying to achieve anything.
The Rolling Girls would have benefited from two or three more arcs before it got to its climax. This would give us more time to spend with the three as they bumble, stumble and collapse their way into a victory.
That said, I bought the show, and will watch it again.
Now here we get to the part of the list where I put the shows that stand out. These two I would recommend to anyone who likes stories. While one of them did get somewhat panned by a few people, the other one was nearly universally loved, and for good reasons.
So let’s get going.
Of any of the shows, this is the one where I felt the most interested in the characters. Yes, this is the third slice of life show on this list, but this one actually has stakes, dramatic tension and characters with goals.
While this is a show about two characters who are discovering that their actual gender is different than what they were born with, I never found it preachy. It’s to the show’s credit that I felt the interactions were genuine.
The fact that the world seemed a little more accepting of Nitori and Takatsuki than would be realistic never bugged me.
This was the show that I wished Kanon could be. It’s a show about emotions and relationships where I was invited into a secret world to share with the characters.
My only complaint is that the show likely picked the least interesting section of the story to tell. The promise of real conflict was never really delivered on. Most of the romance subplots were never resolved, and the conclusion felt like a pause.
I wanted to see the story of the characters through to the end, but that just didn’t happen.
It’s not surprising that my favorite #AniTwitWatches show was the one I had already seen. Not only that, I recommended it for the group watch, which makes it even more likely it would end up at the top of the list. I say all of this to put my next statement into context.
Another is the single best show that we’ve watched during #anitwitwatches.
It’s not even close.
I talk a lot about stakes because I want to want the main characters to succeed. If I don’t care whether they live or die, well, then it isn’t worth watching the show. I wanted to see the doomed class of students survive, and when they died, I felt the gut-punch each time.
This is a show oozes dread. The music and art combine to generate atmosphere.
Not to mention, there is a story about loss and grief that is running underneath the main story.
The direction of the show is beautiful as well. I want to go through and pick the whole production apart, scene by scene, to see how it’s constructed.
I can’t even find anything to complain about. I mean the lead heroine is sort of flat and has moments where she is mysterious for the sake of being mysterious rather than for a genuine character reason.
But those complaints are minor in the scope of what is a great show.
Go and watch it.
So that’s my list. Let me know what you think. And, as always, thanks for reading.