It’s funny, but somewhere along the line KyouKan has leveled up a little and it’s hard to say exactly why. The last two eps have certainly been the best – it’s a bit more self-apparent with #4, which was simply the most well-paced and interesting in terms of plot. But this one was also quite good, and its charms are harder for me to quantify.
I’m certainly not to first to make note of the fact that KyoAni shows can have a bit of a slow build quality to them, even the good ones – and that might be a part of the equation here. But rather than growing accustomed to the tone and characters, my sense is that this episode was simply better. The humor was a little crisper, the atmosphere a little more engaging, the narrative flow more natural. It’s not as though I can point to anything specific in the episode that knocked me out, but I found myself more involved in what was happening than at any time in the series so far. Whatever the reason, it is what it is, and progress is progress.
A lot of the focus this week was on Mitsuki, a character I didn’t much care about before and still hasn’t made that much of an impression (which I suppose makes my overall reaction to the episode even more odd). She’s functioning mostly as the silent observer character here, and in a way the structure of the ep was to follow her around as she interacted with the others – Mirai, the club, her siscon brother, Ayaka and Ai at the shop. It was a sort of “a day in the life” effect, with exposition and plot advancement happening in an almost incidental way that didn’t feel at all forced. We got the same sort of jokes – Akihito and Hiroomi with their fetishes, Mirai’s poverty and gluttony, et al – but for whatever reason they mostly worked this time. Comedy is funny that way, no pun intended.
The last couple of scenes were quite good, especially. Mirai has had her license suspended for a month and thus must find work, and she gets the kind of job only anime characters get – standing around doing nothing in Ayaka’s shop. But then there’s the “other” job, which is apparently how Ayaka makes her real money (including taking nudes for her “personal collection”, Ai included – feline and loli – with hidden melons – forms). Then there was the lantern festival, which had a nice wistful, lonely quality to it that suited the content of the scene. It was nice work, classic KyoAni – the kind of thing that gives me hope that the last two weeks aren’t a mirage, and KyouKan really is a series on the rise. I may not be able to say exactly why, but it’s the results that matter, not the reasons.
Tokyo Ravens – 04
I’m dropping Tokyo Ravens, though I may give it another week or two to see if it can keep me interested enough to at least watch. One of the major problems I stressed last week wasn’t much of an issue, but sadly it was by far the lesser of the two – the excessive CGI, which didn’t show up much with this ep lacking major action scenes.
But the other issue remains – for me Tokyo Ravens seems quite disinterested in breaking free from the light novel cliches that keep it firmly tethered to mediocrity. We got a load of major voice talent added this week – Shimono Hiro, Koji Yusa (as a character who looks and acts almost identically to the one he played in the vastly superior Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge), Kitamrua Eri. But they’re all playing stock characters we’ve seen a thousand times before, as is Toyasaki Aki as the hyper-kawaii fox familiar Kon. And seriously – Natsume must be the least convincing reverse trap in years. How could anyone possible be fooled?
If anything this episode put my in mind of Infinite Stratos (well, maybe that was the least convincing reverse trap), which isn’t much of a compliment. Tokyo Ravens does do some things well, and it strikes me as a better than average execution of generic LN formula – but it’s still generic LN formula, and based on this episode it doesn’t seem like the change-of-venue is really going to make a difference on that score. There’s just too much quantity this season for this series to make the cut.