Shin Sekai Yori turned up its intensity last episode and in episode 5 it doesn’t relent.
Episode 4 started with a lot of exposition, but very powerful exposition, before the monk showed up and the attack by the queerats or wererats, depending on your translation. I wasn’t ready for the episode to end, and this one was the same, except no infodump. A lot of queerats and the monk get blown up (revealing bones that look like weapons and smell “like gunpowder”) and the kids get separated when more queerats show up. I’d love to know what happened with Shun and Maria, and I’m sure we’ll find out, but Saki’s our heroine, so we get her and Satorou as they get captured, find a bizarre way to escape, encounter friendly queerats who consider them young gods, and … I’m not sure WHAT was going on at the end, but it looks pretty dire, and I was thinking “It’s over already? When’s next week?”
There’s a lot going on that makes it effective, not least (if you can get past the simplistic character design clashing with the lush surroundings, which came close to over-distraction) the direction and animation, feet sliding through bizarre forest backdrops, multicolored fires and explosions, quick flashes to hands grabbing at arms or Saki’s face looking up in bewilderment, to closeups of ugly queerat faces (and let’s not bring up their queen). It can be terribly confusing but that brings up the next point: Saki and Satorou are new to this too. They’re learning about the queerat lives and conflicts just as we are. And they’re learning more about the humans’ place in the world. They’re also learning about themselves and each other. Satorou shows some resourcefulness and guile, proving he’s not just the loud kid of the group. And there’s a scene where the two adolescents nearly choose sex as a release from their stress, but stop themselves. And the scenes are given a final oomph because above all it’s about their immediate lives. And we, the viewer, have no idea what will happen next and, sigh, have to wait for next week.
As we get used to the new world of Sword Art Online, it strikes me that the show, or its potential anyway, has changed since we’re now emotionally invested in our two main characters. What’s more, we have enemies now. On that first world there were nasty people who just happened to inhabit that place with you, and I suppose you could call Kayaba a villain if you wish, but there wasn’t any real malice in him. Now we’re in this nice fairy world where people can come back after they die, and they can log out. And you can fly! The episode spends a lot of time showing how much fun that can be. But we really can’t enjoy any of this when we know why Kirito’s there. And once we go and see Asuna we just want Kirito to get to that tree as fast as possible.
And there are more problems when you stop laughing at their ears and see the people behind the avatars. Sugou is still an impossibly evil villain. How he treats Asuna is bad enough, but possibly just as bad is that Asuna needs rescuing in the first place. This is not the confident, skillful tsundere we’ve come to love. It’s pathetic to watch her now. Well, I’m hoping she’ll get some satisfying revenge when the time comes. Then we have Lyfa, who just HAPPENS to be Suguha in real life, and is unaware that this brave Kirito fellow who just saved her life and is determined to get to the big tree is actually … you know. It’s made more absurd because he looks more of less the same (to us) online and off, but she still can’t see it.
I’m continuing to watch Little Busters, but episode 4 has so much Komari that I could barely tolerate it. I’m not the type to look down my nose at cheerful, clumsy, genki anime characters, in fact, I like them, but that voice! It’s driving me up the fucking wall! And now we’re in the story arc featuring her and her mysterious missing brother. Even without the annoyances I’m beginning to see why people wanted Kyoani to produce this show. They would have added a layer of quality to the visuals so that its crude story elements would go down more smoothly. They probably would have come up with a better script as well. As it stands now the show has one or two decent moments per episode (Riki and the old man was my favorite scene, in that it showed that Riki may be a small weak narcoleptic, but he doesn’t take lip from anyone) and the rest of the time everyone just acts goofy or saccharine.
And I watched Teekyuu. I think episode 4 set a record for number of gags in two minutes, counting the OP.