Catching up, episode by episode. There might be a change in opinion between episodes 2 and 3 for the shows that applies to, but I haven’t watched all the 3s yet.
Let’s start with Nobunagun 2, an episode split between the battle and the stuff that comes after. The battle itself was a lot of fun to watch even it was basically Sio blasting away. Why?
It’s not just the newbie-in-the-cockpit thing, it’s because Sio is taking obvious delight in the mayhem she’s causing. And surprising her more experienced new comrades, who didn’t even know there was an Oda Nobunaga gene floating around (okay, they must have–how did they lose track of it?). What adds to the fun is when she channels her descendant and gets combat advice on the fly. This version of Nobunaga is someone else who delights in Sio’s delight. Heh.
The second half is either mishandled or sidestepped brilliantly, I don’t know which. Basically she has to decide whether to join Dogoo. It’s a no-brainer and she knows it, but in the aftermath of the battle she finds she has the shakes. It takes a nice speech by Asao, who fully understands that this trembling girl sitting before her is the reason she’s still alive, to give her a reason to press on. This is all very routine, of course, but it’s accompanied by some imaginative, sometimes downright weird visual choices (Why were all those faces so red?) that made the inevitable soul-searching scenes pass by without any tedium.
Episode 3 is a training episode where an important viewing lesson is learned: if new characters say bye with a few minutes left in the episode, they will die. The fact that we follow them AFTER they say bye is the proof; all we need to see then is HOW they go. And, apart from the hurricane aspect, that part was predictable. In fact, the dullest things in the show so far are the invading aliens, all of them skittering, menacing shapes with no apparent thoughts of their own. Also there was a letdown because Sio was now out of her element, on a strange island, learning just how much she has to learn about her powers. She was unable to whip out her blood-lust, and her flashes of anger was directed more at Robert Capa(!), her trainer. Hopefully that’ll change next week when she meets up with the monster who wiped out her new army buddies.
Space Dandy 2 hasn’t found its footing yet. The first half, about trying to find some legendary ramen, is fast and colorful, but nothing they throw in with the psychedelia really matters that much, not even the arrival of a new character. When we meet the mysterious ramen maker at the end it works better; even Dandy seems moved by the tale, but on the whole the episode feels less like a wild joyride and more like a mess.
Episode 3 is better. We have some of the show’s tropes now, scenes at the alien registration place, Boobies (if they can find one), and the eternal struggle for more money. It’s a nice touch that they seem to kill off characters at will only to bring them back without explanation the following week. We could see the surprise of the story coming a mile away, but I hadn’t expected how it would turn out. On the other hand, the show tries too hard to be stylish, and it tries to throw so much at us that you get moments where the show seems to lose where it is and everything stops. Also, I wonder just how long they can toss us stand-alone episodes and expect the production values to carry the trivial stories? I expect that will get tiresome.
Maybe it’s just me, but Seikokai Yakuindomo * feels like it’s upped its game this season. It’s still the same format, dirty jokes, but everything feels livelier this season. I especially liked the tour that they give Uomi, another student council president, and just as sex-crazed as the regular characters, since it’s a throwback to the tour Shino once gave Tsuda in season one. In other highlights, Suzu gets sick, Aria has a corner, and Tsuda gets messy with markers.
Another thing that’s working in its favor we further see in episode 3. Tsuda and Suzu go on the second year’s field trip to Okinawa, so they work the field trip gags they began first season, like famous monuments shut down for renovation. I’d also like to think they were tipping their hats to the Azumanga field trip (sata andagi!) but that’s probably my imagination. Most important of course is that the show’s clowns are separated from their chief straight man. This means we get a few jokes with no Tsuda comeback and the girls saying it’s no fun. Elsewhere, they make a lot of dirty jokes at Okinawa’s expense, and the show apologizes a lot. Oh, they lay off the Suzu is short jokes, mostly.