Anime of the Week: Classroom Crisis – Ep. 2

For the second week in a row, Classroom Crisis gets the ultimate satisfaction of being the anime of the week through some excellent character development, more subtle messages than you can shake a stick at and gobs of corporate propaganda… in-episode corporate propaganda, that is.

In Classroom Crisis‘ second episode–“Classroom Downsizing”–the A-TEC students do the best they can to welcome Nagisa–the one who’s attempting to shut them down–into the group, but Nagisa doesn’t take well to their friendliness. Besides that, this episode exists to flesh out the world in which these characters live, specifically the history of the A-TEC team and the Kirishina Academy as a whole. Pipe in some steaming hot layers of Kaito Sera’s dying legacy, and you’ve got an episode that’s noteworthy for several reasons.

The A-TEC crew look over info on Nagisa


Let’s stick with Kaito for a second. In the first episode, he seemed completely blank–save for a few moments of exaggerated “Huh”s, of course–but here, he is quickly fleshed out as being a shadow of his former self due to his loss of hope over the years. In a corporate propaganda video, we see a much younger–and livelier–Kaito chatting with an interviewer about the importance of A-TEC to Kirishina, and the importance of their inventions to Japanese society at large. In the present day, Kaito sits in a quiet room where the A-TEC’ers have been called upon to watch this video. His team in the early stages of being forcefully disbanded, the video gives Kaito the epiphany he needs about the ways in which he’s let his dreams float away into the ether. It leads to an important moment between he and Nagisa that sets up the rest of the series for some nice tension between the two. More importantly, our “hero” finally has a desire, so now we can get on board with him and actually care about something in particular within this show; saving the A-TEC crew.

Nagisa is much more thought-out this week too, through subtle moments with Kaito and others. In the last scene I mentioned, when Nagisa tells Kaito to use honorifics when he addresses Nagisa, Kaito confronts him saying, “…isn’t it social etiquette to use honorifics when speaking to your elders?” Nagisa considers it before returning with, “All right then, you can call me Nagisa. No respect for either of us.” It’s this perfect moment that so captures what Nagisa is all about; results. Nagisa has no need to capitulate to Kaito in this situation, because he couldn’t care less about someone bowing down to him. Instead, he worries more with putting Kaito in his place–through taking away his authority–in order to prep for the classroom downsizing of the episode title, of which Kaito could potentially put a stop to. We see this further personified in Nagisa’s brothers, who seem flummoxed at the young man’s ability to come out of any negative situation they stick him into–it turns out that his brothers purposefully put him in no-win scenarios to try to halt his meteoric rise within the company. Nagisa can’t be blocked by normal means because he operates without worry of personal ego or external commentary, meaning that he can coast through difficult scenarios without thinking too hard on the ramifications of his actions, either for himself or for those impacted by them.

Kaito looks at Nagisa dubiously

That gets us to Classroom Crisis‘ philosophy. The propaganda video we see throughout the episode, makes note of the fact that Kirishina’s founder was an original member of the A-TEC crew at a very early age. Much like a Bill Gates or a Steve Jobs, he was a young entrepreneur that built the basis of the company around his innovative ideas. Now in the present day, we get to see the Kirishina corporation attempting to close down its most inventive branch–A-TEC, remember–as the company has grown and as its profit margins have become increasingly more important. Not only does this speak to corporations world-wide–just look at Apple, with its “it-factor” slowly fading in the face of profit pressures from the market–but also to the culture of Japan as a whole, and to the anime industry specifically. Think about Studio Ghibli, an animation studio which–at least as current history would have it–rose and fell with one man; Hayao Miyazaki. Whether you buy this theory or not, it’s hard to deny that the studio decided to take a hiatus eerily soon after Miyazaki’s departure from the studio. So what happened? The same thing that happens all over the Japanese animation industry; once-revolutionary creators and artists who now run things, haven’t worked to build a creative youth movement in order to bring in renewed life to a studio. It creates a “brain drain”, wherein young creators have to move on to more profitable industries, thus depleting a company/studio of its future resources. Nagisa stands as a testament to this too, as his stark entrepreneurial skills pose as a threat to his more powerful brothers, rather than as a beacon of hope for the company. It’s a sad fact of the modern world that Classroom Crisis nails on the head, and with much more subtlety than most other series could craft.

An shot of the different ships that the A-TEC crew have built

In spite of all this, Classroom Crisis never pretends to be more than it is. The series instead works as a fun, “inside baseball” look at a bunch of people who make rocket ships. All these gooey messages about the trouble with the modern corporate complex are just icing on an already delicious cake.

Shirayuki and Zen look off into the distance

Runner Up: Snow White with the Red Hair – Ep. 2

Speaking of cake, Snow White with the Red Hair really killed it again this week, by having its cake and eating it too.

Snow White is evolving into a feminist/shōjo series; that is to say, a series that touches on the strength of the modern woman while ultimately having the modern man save her. In this episode, Shirayuki gets abducted during her time on the road–attempting to further her herbalist career–and must fight off her abductor at all costs. Where the “cake” comes in, is in Shirayuki’s own ability to handle herself–for the most part–in the situation. Not only does she escape her confines at one point, but she uses her herbal abilities to slow her captor down when he’s chasing after her. It’s this kind of moment that empowers Shirayuki without forcing her to exhibit classic male traits–a nice breather from most films where women are empowered by their inner masculinity in rather drastic circumstances.

When Prince Zen shows up to save the day, Shirayuki has tried her best and has only fallen to her abductor out of sheer exhaustion. This gives us that feeling of “sisters are doing it for themselves”, while also letting its shōjo audience relax in classic gender roles–boy saves girl. Granted, shaking up those classic gender roles might be more interesting, but Zen isn’t your classic male protagonist. He doesn’t rescue Shirayuki in some sort of “taking care of what’s mine”, mode, but to help set her back on her own path. The idea of “paths” play a large role in this series–mainly Shirayuki’s own path to being a self-sufficient and strong woman and herbalist–and Prince Zen adds to this reverence for life goals, in the respect he shows toward Shirayuki’s hopes and dreams for her own future. He may save Shirayuki’s life, but in sharp contrast to the villain from the premiere episode, Prince Zen has no interest in telling Shirayuki what to do with it.

As it stands, Snow White with the Red Hair is a joy to watch, not simply for its animation alone, but bolstered by its strong characters and revealing look at healthy and equal relationships.

The aftermath of a large battle instigated by Earth

Biggest Surprise: GATE – Ep. 2

The second week of the summer season was filled with surprises; Gangsta had a jump in quality and action, Seiyu’s Life figured out a reason to exist and Prison School wasn’t anywhere near as bad as some of the internet made it out to be. Most surprising though, was this second episode of GATE, the series about a dimensional gateway between Earth and some other dimension/world. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, outside of a reading of the synopsis, GATE is wildly different from Blood Blockade Battlefront and never as successful.

In this episode, however, GATE definitely makes up for its otaku-joke heavy first episode with a focus on what it would be like to be the invaded country that the Earthlings prepared troops against in the first episode. This interest in “how the other half lives”, not only strengthens the narrative–not allowing these “others” to exist as villains for villainy’s sake–but tells a much more interesting story than we got last week, with possible back stabbings awaiting countless officials in the invaded country. There’s even some commentary on the complete devastation of war and what it would feel like for an ancient, medieval-era army to come against a modern army. All together, GATE‘s second episode comes off as more thoughtful in its execution than last week’s episode. What more could you ask for?

Akechi explains his teacher's murder

Biggest Disappointment: Ranpo Kitan – Ep. 2

Ranpo Kitan is actually a pretty fun mystery series; I spent all of the second episode trying to figure out the murderer before they were properly fingered. That doesn’t make for a fantastic series, though, especially when the main characters are this empty, walking around with no purpose or drive behind their actions outside of the most simple readings of their situations–this character is a detective and he needs to solve this murder, this character has been wrongfully accused and, he too, needs to solve this murder. Ranpo Kitan is certainly a stylish show–with characters re-enacting moments from the scene of a crime in play-like form–making it one of the more visually interesting series this season, but it feels so cold and empty when it comes to expressing character emotions. I’ll definitely stick around for the murder mysteries and the stylistic overtures, but Ranpo Kitan doesn’t make itself an easy sell to anyone but the most entrenched of anime fans. Well, maybe people who like dull procedurals on CBS, but that crowd would probably find Ranpo Kitan to be too “weird”–see “unique”. If Ranpo Kitan doesn’t get it together, I can’t imagine too many people being into it for more than a few episodes. I’m a big mystery fan myself, so I’m on board, but I’m basically going kicking and screaming.

Ally hangs back behind Worick

Predictions for Next Week

As I had hoped in last week’s post, the summer season’s second week was a marked improvement over the premiere week. Everything from Gangsta. to Seiyu’s Life! to Snow White with the Red Hair was better this time around. That gives me hope for the rest of the season after a lackluster start to things. More than anything, I’m looking forward to Gangsta. growing as a series. If it sticks with its current viewpoint on its world–men are hard badasses and women are whores–I’ll have a hard time abiding, but it’s a series that I really want to like, in spite of my higher brain functions. Beyond that, I’m intrigued to see if GATE keeps up its interest in showing a range of characters, versus digging its head back in the sand with its lame otaku character from the first episode. Lastly, I’m curious to see if Prison School will stick to its guns and keep its main cast despicable. It’s the kind of series that’s easy to call disgusting if you don’t take it as a whole, but the fact that it realizes how ridiculous its perverted boy heroes are, puts it in the same conversation–tone wise–as American comedies like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Workaholics, to a lesser degree. I’m not saying that it’s anywhere near as funny or clever as those shows, but Prison School uses its outlandish setting to amplify the worst traits in its main characters. With the boys being in an all-women prison–and with all of the women being absolutely disgusted with them–there’s certainly room for some “men’s rights” commentary to sneak its way in, but I’m not too worried about that.

All in all, I’m glad I stuck it out with most of these series to see what they had to offer. Overlord was a complete piece of shit this week–the hero/viewer worship here is absurd and truly annoying to have to sit through–and Charlotte and Monster Musume are on my chopping block due to some pretty uninspired outings, but everything else has at least a few things going for it. It’s by no means a perfect season, but I think it’ll be a fun watch when all’s told.

Survivors of the Week

Classroom Crisis
Snow White with the Red Hair
Monster Musume
Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace
Seiyu’s Life
Prison School
God Eater
My Love Story
Ninja Slayer: from Animation

Matthew McCrary
Matthew McCrary
Pop culture writer at Monkeys Fighting Robots and Boom Howdy. Currently hosting the Toondiculous Podcast, where two grown men point out the logic flaws in children's programming. This sort of thing makes him feel like a big man, you see.