I remain on the fence about blogging this season of Chuunibyou. There was nothing especially wrong with this week’s episode, just as there was nothing wrong with last week’s – they were very much in the vein of the first season. But that’s part of the problem.
I’ll give Chuunibyou credit for this much – in this episode it did at least acknowledge that things are stagnant. Maybe that stagnation is going to be the major plot driver this season, which would probably be the best-case scenario all things considered. Because I’m finding it quite annoying that Rikka is still acting like a grade-schooler – even calling herself one at the aquarium dolphin show – and that it isn’t causing more of a non-comedy driven reaction. Yeah, Yuuta whacks her on the head occasionally – hell, he even spanks her this week – but she still buzzes along merrily in her child’s world, spending all her sister’s money on junk and absorbing herself in fantasy to the point of dysfunction. The reason it worked in the first season is because of the back-story behind it – we could see it as the defense mechanism it was. Now it’s just annoying.
In truth, I think chuunibyou would actually be a step-up for Rikka because she actually does act more like a sixth than an eighth-grader. And it doesn’t help that Yuuta himself – even when he doesn’t slip into Dark Flame Master mode – is fully ensconced in the sex-free world of childhood. I don’t blame Nibutani (by the way, was there an explanation for why her hair went back to normal and I just missed it?) for being annoyed – I sure am – by the complete lack of boyfriend-girlfriend chemistry between these two. I don’t much like the way Nibutani has devolved into a sort of combined Greek Chorus/audience stand-in/narrator for this show, but she’s still usually the one in the cast making the most sense.
The other thing that worries me is that there’s growing reason to suspect KyoAni is circling the wagons a bit with this season, focusing on delivering the service its core fans want and not worrying too much about themes. There’s the OP and ED of course, the fact that Isshiki seems to have been written out of the show, and then we get an introduction of two more moemoe girls this week – one of them entering the same way Rikka did – as well as yuri hints with both of them that may or may not be jokes. I want to believe there’s more to this season than simply a crass attempt to squeeze a few million more Yen out of the franchise, but the evidence isn’t there to support that yet.
Witch Craft Works – 02
I watched a slew of second episodes this week that I’m not specifically blogging – Buddy Complex, Mikakunin, Hamatora to be specific. And while I think all of them were better in their second episode than their premiere, none of them really gave me any particular urge to write about them (Mikakunin has something, but the older and younger sister characters and the casting of the imouto and the male lead make it unwatchable). Of the lot of them I think Witch Craft Works probably had the best second episode, so I thought I’d touch base with it.
Mizushima Tsutomu is directing and writing this series, and I’m a great believer that the overall talent level of the staff will tend to find its level over time. I’m still not sure this show is going to cross the threshold into being really interesting, but the second episode was a good deal of fun. I like the way the Tower Witches are being depicted – all of them like slightly off-their-nut ojou-samas. I like the sheer randomness of the episode – for example, what the hell was Takamiya sculpting and why was he sculpting at all – and the entire scene at the cafe, with the bizarre familiars and the busty waitress. And I like the willingness of the series to be pretty brutal – not just the Salem re-enactment (I guess the ED was foreshadowing) but the witch calmly slapping the lost little girl out of the way when she realized the dude she was looking for was right in front of her.
Quirky humor and brutality are both, of course, hallmarks of Mizushima-sensei’s style. You can tell this show is the work of a real talent – the mundane stuff is more interesting than it should be, and the silly stuff (like Takamiya’s sister – who I assume is a witch as well – stalking he and Kagari) is funny when it’s supposed to be. I don’t especially feel anything for any of the characters yet, though Kagari’s extreme deadpan is consistently amusing. And the plot itself is only modestly interesting, though it has sparked a mild curiosity to see where it’ll go next. There were a whole bunch of mediocre shows tightly bunched together after the first week, but Witch Craft Works has separated itself from that pack a little in the second. It’s definitely in the “maybe” box at the moment.