Undead Unluck – 8 [Victhor]
Woooo Undead Unluck continues to be one of my favorites, even managing to take my top spot this week. There was some jank near the end, sure, but by and large it all looked pretty good with some smart direction. A bit to much red for my taste, but hey they like the colors. As for the content, Shen got to be a badass, kicking around Spoil with Wukong’s mythical staff, before being bodied by Victor. Meanwhile Victor gets to show off the true power of Andy’s Undead ability, abusing it in ways Andy has either never thought to or just can’t. And to top it all off we continue to get these little tidbits about Undead Unlucks world. Things like days of the week not existing, mentions of a “decent lineup this time” whatever that means, all this talk of “rules”. It’s peak Shounen fun, and I enjoy it a lot. David Productions is doing a great job with the adaptation and there are a few more moments I’m really looking forward to seeing animated. Also I really appreciate putting all of Shen’s phrases in Chinese, it’s a nice touch.
Frieren – 12 [A Real Hero]
Next up is Frieren, taking the 2nd place spot for the first time this season. That’s not because it’s bad, Frieren is pretty consistently solid. More that this is a rather subdued episode that goes in on purpose, family and the importance of small gestures, all of it centered around Stark. The knowledge that Himmel wasn’t a “true hero” as acknowledged by the sword, unable to pull it, yet still slew the Demon Lord and saved the world, is still remembered as a hero, was great. I absolutely love how that ties into Starks own insecurities, his fear of leaving people behind, of not being good enough. Yet here we have a hero, his hero, being outted as even more of a “fraud” than Stark is. Making it clear that it isn’t the world or the words/judgements of others that decide what you are, but your own actions. And then the whole thing with his family? His father looking down on him calling him weak? All the while his brother truly, honestly cares for him? Seriously, that visual of Stark’s brother, Stoltz, kneeling in the mud and getting his pristine white cloak dirty to interact and teach his brother was beautiful. Easily my favorite shot of the episode. And the hamburger steaks? The bit about them being a reward for a warriors who work hard, how his brother made them in secret for his birthday knowing their parents wouldn’t approve? I liked that a lot, it’s nice to have a genuinely positive sibling relationship that could easily have been a stereotypical sort of rivalry. I didn’t really need the clothing potion thing, or the clouds, but I won’t begrudge Frieren some attempts at humor. Plus Frieren and Fern made some great faces during those scenes, so I guess it was worth it. Also P.S. Frieren is a god damn pack rat.
The Apothecary Diaries – 6 [Homecoming]
God this really is just a week of wholesomeness huh? The first half is what you’d expect, Mao Mao gets involved in the poison investigation, helping them figure out who did it. There’s some cool apothecary stuff with corroding silver, finger prints, proper etiquette to hold a dish, as well as why Mao Mao would lie for Lishu’s taster who didn’t realize what was happening. That was all solid, I look forward to that mystery/plot becoming more important in the second half of the season because Apothecary Diaries is clearly setting up some larger plot for Mao Mao and Jinshi to solve. The second half though is what I really enjoyed. From Mao Mao “convincing” the military officer to take her outside the palace with letters of introduction to some high class prostitutes to Mao Mao finally getting to see her father again, it was a good mix of situation comedy and wholesome family moments. Plus Jinshi looked shocked and dismayed to hear that Mao Mao had actually used one of those hair pins on someone other than him, which was great. Plot wise I’d say the only significant thing to come out of this half was her fathers bemusement, his mention of fate, when hearing that Mao Mao worked in the Rear Palace. Is there some reason that should be important? Is a family member there, maybe that’s where her mom is/is from? I don’t know, but should hopefully come up in the future.
SpyXFamily S2 – 7 [Who Is This Mission For?]
The first half of the episode continues to give us Yor goodness. From her being a badass and taking out the assassin to her legitimately thinking about how she feels about her family, how they are affecting her work and which she should choose. I really appreciate that, because it’s true. Yors job has already caused her trouble once this very season with the butt bullet thing, and that was for a joke. If she were to get seriously injured, or even killed? Even if they knew the truth I imagine that would hurt Loid and Anya a lot, and Yor knows it. Now hopefully SpyXFamily will have her make a decision on this next episode before the arc ends, bringing all of this up to not resolve it this season would suck. But with how it’s going I think it will pull it off. As for Loid and Anya, they took up most of the second half. They filled out the joke quota for the week, with Anya trying to distract Loid and him being fantastic at… Basically everything, much to her chagrin. Combine this with Loid clearly not understanding kids, and ending it on a wholesome concern for Yor and the promise of fireworks together, and it was sweet. Not as good as the previous episode I don’t think, but still solid. I’m enjoying this arc, I’m really glad Yor is getting screentime all to herself without Loid, Anya or her brother being involved. She’s really needed it.
Shangri-La Frontier – 8 [The 300-Limit Pandemonium]
This was a short but fun episode of Shangri-La. A good like 6 minutes of the runtime was taken up by the opening recap and the after-credits SLF Theater bit, which is a tad disappointing I’ll admit. But what we did get was actually a really solid action sequence. Jumping around, dodging the roots, the magic, it all looked really good. I also quite liked his bit about “trash games infecting his brain” and not giving up/settling for a do-over, it’s a classic gamer mentality of “No I can do this”. Aside from that, some solid gags. The cloth outfit, the bird mask, the running gag with the girl trying to shoot Sunraku every time she sees him thinking he’s a monster. Shangri-La Frontier continues to be a solid, though not necessarily memorable, fantasy MMO series. And I’m cool with that.
Goblin Slayer S2 – 8 [Heart of Darkness]
This was a pretty standard episode of Goblin Slayer, disappointingly so if I’m being honest. For what was supposed to be the finale of this arc, the big battle against a Goblin Shaman on top of an ancient ruin, it didn’t feel all that exciting. It wasn’t particularly well produced, the fight was pretty straight forward with minimal tactics, and the payoff just wasn’t there. Some bits felt like a classic D&D adventure, like the puzzle door, traversing their way up the tower and Feather Falling off the wall, those were kind of cute. About the only thing that was interesting was how Goblin Slayer shows Priestess questioning her faith after using her magic to hurt another living being but like… These are goblins? Objectively evil creatures in this world? Were it against any other creature it would be more interesting, but here it’s just “why”? So yeah, by and large I was disappointed after how well episode 8 set this up. As for the second half? Eh it was elf marriage party stuff. Nothing to crazy here, Goblin Slayer refuses to commit to any of the 4 romantic options so we all know it isn’t going anywhere.
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off – Complete
I had a lot of fun with Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. I thought it was just going to be an anime adaptation of the movie/original story, but it ended up being so much more. Not just narratively, though that’s a big change too, but visually as well. This wasn’t some half-assed cash grab by Science Saru. Basically every episode has at least one “big” scene that they put a lot of effort into, with all the little ones in between oozing with personality. Seriously, the art style looks great in motion and they give everyone a lot of character. All of this while keeping the same witticisms, irreverence, snappy dialogue and dry humor that I loved from the original. This isn’t a huge surprise, the script was written by BenDavid Grabinski with the creator of Scott Pilgrim, Bryan Lee O’Malley, assisting. And it comes through in the writing! Sure there were some bits near the end I wasn’t huge on, I won’t spoil it but there’s a twist that isn’t really up my alley. Even with that though the message, the experience, of watching this show was great.
Now to be upfront about it, I watched the English Dub. This is because I absolutely adore the cast of the original Scott Pilgrim vs The World movie, I think everyone from Aubrey Plaza and Michael Cera to Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Evans are fantastic in it. So I couldn’t resist them reprising their roles in Scott Pilgrim Takes Off. And you know what? They kill it! I swear Aubrey Plaza is just playing herself, because she nails every single one of Julie Powers’ lines! And you know what makes it even better? This isn’t restricted to a 2 hour movie. Now all 7 of the Evil Ex’s, Julie Powers’, Ramona, they get so much more time to shine and be actual characters. To hang out and interact with each other. We actually get an entire scene of just Lucas and Gideon hanging out as friends. It’s great! There’s so much to love about Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, and I can’t talk about the half of it without spoiling, but just know that it gets my full endorsement. It’s not perfect, I have some nitpicks and minor issues in places, but ultimately I enjoyed it a lot and I’m going to look back on it fondly. One of the best things I’ve watched this year.
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