Glancing Upstream: Winter 2017 Retrospective and Review

March comes in like a dragon and out like a maid (that’s totally how that saying goes, right?).

Just a couple short weeks ago I was ready to come into this post a little tired and bummed about the season, but some strong final arcs have lifted my opinion (or maybe I’m just riding high from yesterday’s heartwarming Dragon Maid finale). We’ve had deeper and stronger seasons, but this one had its share of charm and individuality–and hey, as I said last winter, no season with a standout masterpiece like Rakugo Shinju can ever be truly disappointing.

Sure, we’re almost a week into the spring season, but it’d be bad form to say “hi” to the new gang without first bidding a “see ya later” to the old. Hit the jump for some final thoughts on an up-and-down winter.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Season 2 – Episode 12

Time for our final curtain call.

Since last week saw the end of our central story, this week is by nature a more subdued epilogue, a comedown from the peak we hit before. While it didn’t have quite the emotional punch of recent episodes, it’s still essential to the story Rakugo Shinju wants to tell, which is largely about Bon, yes, but also about history, traditions, and the interconnected nature of individual narratives. Bon is gone but the world is not, and it would be a disservice to that world and the other narratives within it not to see how they’d all grown.

Click here for the full post on Anime Evo!

Love in the Time of ClassicaLoid

Get your ‘ship on.

Welp, they’ve done it again. The creative team who assured us that being a girl was a state of mind rather than a state of body brought that same chipper progressivism to their silly romance episode, and they did not disappoint. ClassicaLoid may be first-and-foremost a wacky comedy about the importance of community and the transformative power of music, but it’s also proven itself adept at quietly challenging cultural norms about gender and sexuality. Guess it’s true you should never judge a book by its cover—or a series by its goofy premise.

Click here for the full post on Anime Feminist!

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Season 2 – Episode 11

Teach ’em how to say goodbye.

So here we are at the end of Yakumo’s–no, at the end of Bon’s story, or at least the end of this volume. I’ve hesitated to talk about religion or philosophy with Rakugo Shinju because I was still on the fence about which direction it would eventually swing, but this episode is infused with Buddhist beliefs and folklore, and especially with that uniquely Japanese concept of mono-no-aware: a keen awareness of impermanence, a gentle sadness for that which we’re destined to lose, and an appreciation of the beauty inherent in our ever-changing world. It may also be Rakugo Shinju’s best episode to date. And for this show, that is saying something.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Season 2 – Episode 10

For everything there is a season.

Each week I think Rakugo Shinju can’t possibly get any better, and each week Rakugo Shinju shouts “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” and proves me wrong.

After last episode’s harrowing confrontation, we’re offered a reprieve of sorts, as everyone does their best to move on from the tragedy of the ruined theatre and Yakumo tries to turn last week’s realization into action, no longer seeking death but instead reaching out to the lives around him. It leads to a quietly, deeply emotional climax and capstone to my favorite relationship in the series, promising hope for the future–right before it drops us into another potential pit. This show will be the death of me. But man, what a way to go.

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Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju Season 2 – Episode 9

When it comes to unnerving ghost stories, “Shinigami” has got nothing on Rakugo Shinju.

Not content to simply kick me in the feelings every week, Rakugo Shinju decides to ratchet up the tension and stress me out as well. Right from the opening theme, which sees the return of Sukeroku’s (friggin’ terrifying) shinigami eyes, there’s the promise of impending disaster lurking right around the corner; a sense that we’ve reached a breaking point and something is going to have to snap before we can go anywhere else.

I mentioned last week that we’d entered a kind of narrative twilight between past and present, “saved” and “lost,” as we waited to see which direction the characters (Yakumo in particular) chose to travel. This week we may have taken a step away from that crossroads and into a specific direction, and it may ultimately be a positive one. But it comes at a steep cost, and I ain’t just talkin’ about my poor heart.

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Speak, Fan, and Enter! Heroes & Gatekeepers in “Akiba’s Trip”

For the love of trivial pursuits.

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Akiba’s Trip is an up-front, silly fanservice show that takes its ogling about as seriously as it does its story. While I’m not usually a fan of the ‘service, Akiba’s Trip has charmed me with its enthusiastic characters and overall joyful tone as it takes its audience on a wacky, loving tour of the many hobbies and fandoms that make up the Akihabara district. And, unlike many series about nerd culture, Akiba’s Trip and its cast are positive-minded dorks more than happy to share their passions with others.

Click here for the full post on Crunchyroll!