Anime of the Week: Classroom Crisis – Ep. 6

After an episode last week that felt more exploitative than nuanced, Classroom Crisis is back on top with an outing focusing on Nagisa’s evolving relationship with the A-TEC crew–in spite of himself–titled “Family of Shame”.

Reacting to Kaito’s clever gaming of the bureaucratic system in the last episode, Nagisa begins his and Kaito’s metaphorical sparring match by rejecting Kaito’s newest budget plan. Kaito quickly responds by practically failing Nagisa in all of his courses as a class-member of the A-TEC crew, forcing Nagisa to take his stand-in role as a student more seriously.

Two of the A-TEC'ers with blueprints in the background.

Like the best episodes, Nagisa and Kaito’s brotherly quarreling takes center stage this time around, as Classroom Crisis feels like it’s getting back to those halcyon days of its second episode, when we were rich in craftily written character moments. Here, it’s the scenes of Nagisa denying Kaito’s budget requests and Kaito harshly scoring Nagisa’s recent tests that mirror each other, with only the power position exchanging hands between the frequent quarrelers. This is a nice advancement in the character dynamics too, as Kaito’s own abilities to make Nagisa’s life hellish–versus the other way around–escaped at least me up to this point, and offer a new avenue for character drama and growth hitherto unexplored. Too, because of the nature of Nagisa’s role in the show in opposition to Kaito, anytime that Kaito has a new card to play, the audience feels reengaged in watching how the game turns out. We saw this a handful of episodes ago when Kaito cleverly turned one of Nagisa’s tactics against him and won the A-TEC crew several new funds for research and development.

Per the usual, Kaito and Nagisa face off.

Kaito’s use of his power as an educator also doesn’t hurt in its pushing Nagisa to interact more with his fellow A-TEC’ers, all in hopes of keeping his grades afloat. We see this most of all in Nagisa’s growing friendship–or at least acquaintanceship–with Kaito’s sister, Mizuki, who helps Nagisa in his studying endeavors countless times in this episode. Clearly the writers are setting up Mizuki to be a love interest for Nagisa, which should lead to even more drama between he and Kaito, so I’m all for Mizuki and Nagisa growing closer.

Nagisa accidentally socializes.

Along with Nagisa slowly ingratiating himself with a handful of the A-TEC crew, “Family of Shame” works to ingratiate him with the audience as well, filling us in on Nagisa’s sorted past and better defining his relationship with his brothers as one that’s much darker and antagonistic than previously seen. These moments happen frequently in anime; countless villains deliver that moment where the audience realizes that maybe they’re just misunderstood. Soon, said villain has joined forces with our hero and is on the road to redemption with us, the audience, cheering at their back. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of a second chance? These moments are handled throughout the medium to varying degrees of success, but Classroom Crisis at least pulls off the subtlety here, having made Nagisa a slightly likable character several episodes back. We don’t feel slapped around by Nagisa’s sob story because we see that he’s pushed beyond it, and his own viewpoint on the world because of his experiences as a child, make him a much more tragic character than the hard-working Kaito. In this way, Nagisa represents a different type of hero we can get behind; one that ultimately needs an emotional solution to the problems in his life rather than a career solution. Kaito requires proof that he and his team are an important–maybe the important–cog in the system–a career-focused resolution–while Nagisa seemingly, at least after the revelations in this episode, has a much stronger need to be accepted into a group of warmhearted and loving people–basically the antithesis of the cold business world that he was raised in.

Nagisa, as a boy, gets picked on by his older brother.

There’s rarely anything to epic about what Classroom Crisis is up to; it’s a character piece wrapped in the disguise of a hard sci-fi show and its character types aren’t even anything we haven’t seen before. Having looked at the recent summation of user ratings over at ANN, it’s a bummer to see Classroom Crisis so low on the list, but maybe it’s due to the show’s relatively low-stakes ambitions. Though it’s not looking to reinvent the wheel, Classroom Crisis is still an exciting watch every week because of how much fuel its character interactions give the show, finding new ways to make old types clash and be forced to deal with one another in oft-tense working situations. Classroom Crisis may be the mundane office-place drama, through and through, but the way that Kaito and Nagisa are forced to deal with each other builds that mundanity into something more interesting and true to life than most anime series this season. For that, you have to give Classroom Crisis its due.

The Seiyu's Life! girls stand in the rain.

Runner-Up: Seiyu’s Life! – Ep. 6

All the barriers in the way of Seiyu’s Life! becoming a legitimately good show, don’t escape me; as a Gonzo series, it should be getting worse not better, from the first episode it felt like a cheap Shirobako ripoff and it dips its toes a little too deep into the moe pool at times. Seiyu’s Life! somehow fights through those shortcomings though, delivering a show that–in the last three episodes at least–really delves into the quasi-purgatorial existence of those just breaking into an entertainment industry. A few weeks ago, I talked about the fourth episode’s interest in showing Futaba–our glasses-bound protagonist–in crisis about her future as a successful seiyu–a voice actor. Since then, Seiyu’s Life! tackled the line between celebrity perception and celebrity reality in last week’s episode, mainly to point out that our heroes are never as “out of this world” as we may think they are–i.e. a “life of stardom” is more obtainable than one thinks–while this week returns us to more career-minded ennui. That’s some worthwhile contemplation happening in a show that could simply have its three female protagonists sing a cheesy pop number, do a dance and call it a day.

In this episode specifically, that previously mentioned ennui springs up from Futaba getting her hopes up about a looming anime series for which she played a decent part in the same franchise’s drama CD. When the role she was expecting to get goes to someone close to Futaba, she’s forced to reckon with her own jealousy as well as her understandable doubts about herself. Throughout the course of the episode, Futaba’s range of emotions capture the hopelessness that comes with creative failure and the weight one can put upon oneself when their career is based around other people judging them. Never does Futaba’s emotional arc here feel jilted by corny jokes or the creative team playing up the moe qualities of its small, young threesome. The writers, director and voice talent really work to provide as accurate as any an exploration of the fringes of the anime industry and what it takes to push through failure to keep fighting for the dream, no matter the disappointing outcomes that might weight you down. Hands down, Seiyu’s Life! is the best show that no one’s talking about. The animation is sub-par at best and I hold no doubts that it could turn frivolous at any second, but for now, it’s the perfect emotional answer to Shirobako‘s more technically minded look at the anime industry.

A long shot of Worick's Don.

Biggest Surprise: Gangsta. – Ep. 6

For countless weeks I waited for Gangsta. to go somewhere interesting, and of course when I basically gave up on the series, it FINALLY delivers. Where this week scored in the face of previous episodes that didn’t, was in its storytelling shining through relatively slow-paced scenes. In previous episodes, Gangsta. felt a real need to remind you that because its characters were “dark & gritty”, they weren’t afraid to “get their hands dirty” and “kick a little ass.”

This week the show takes a break from those pointless fight scenes–animated rather poorly too, mind you–to truly indulge in its characters and the world they live in. This gives us a chance to see Worick and Nicholas’ past relationship in connection to their current status as comrades, while getting a feel for the city of Ergastulum at different points in its history. We also get a peek into why Alex has been such a bland and boring character up to this point and why she tends to follow around our heroes without a thought of her own. It’s a rather tacked on answer to that question, and things get a little weird, but at least Alex’s added complexity is proof that the writers care about portraying characters that are unique and interesting. Alex’s actions in this episode also help to negate some of the initial gender role issues that Gangsta. felt burdened with, making her less of a “whore” and more of a wounded human being. Beyond that, a story line with the mob boss Daniel Monroe–Nick’s old boss–seems to be building into a nice future arc for the series, leaving Worick, Alex and Nick with a more meaningful path than the show has provided them so far. Gangsta. still isn’t the best it can be, but it’s getting there, which is surprising enough at this point.

Prince Zen is surprised and embarassed.

Biggest Disappointment: Snow White with the Red Hair – Ep. 6

Snow White with the Red Hair started as a show about an empowered and highly intelligent girl–not the most prominent character type in anime–that had a few tropes from the shōjo genre, all of which were easily handled since the show’s quality was so high otherwise. With this episode’s introduction of Prince Izana–Zen’s hateful and mischievous older brother–we’re handed one of the more annoying tropes; the bad boy with a heart of gold.

Recall one of the more recent mainstays of the shōjo genre, Fruits Basket, and that show’s triangular relationship between Tohru, Yuki and Kyo; Tohru is our timid heroine who must choose between the strong and true Yuki and Kyo, the asshole who’s misunderstood and just needs a little tender love & care to be molded into the perfect mate. At this point, there’s really no telling if that direction is for sure the way that Snow White is headed with this potential love triangle, but all the pieces are in place. Izana’s mischief is causing trouble for Shirayuki but Zen isn’t quite doing everything he can to help her out, thus putting him in a worse light. More to the point, as recently as last week, Snow White with the Red Hair was focused almost solely on Shirayuki’s journey to becoming the best court herbalist that she could be, her and Zen’s romantic relationship being an element of the show, but a background element to be sure. Now with Izana in the picture, fans of romantic drama will have plenty of scenes to chew on, while those of us more interested in Shirayuki’s growth as an individual may be left high and dry. I’m hoping this is just a temporary divergence from Shirayuki’s path though, and that Snow White with the Red Hair will be taking her on new and enriching adventures again by next week. Just keep that tired love triangle out of the picture and let the bad boy stay a bad boy, sans heart of gold.

The crew of Ranpo Kitan bid a fond farewell.

Predictions for Next Week

After a couple of lackluster episodes, I’m moving past Ranpo Kitan which doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast–we’re up to “shenanigans with pedophiles”, at this point in the series. Aside from that and Snow White‘s transgression, this week was solid through and through, so I’m hoping that the season keeps getting better with next week’s entries. Monster Musume is finally entering into an actual narrative–apparently–with its next episode, so we’ll see how that’s handled. Meanwhile, Prison School, having wrapped up its first arc, has something to prove as far as progressing the story and keeping us on the side of its shackled male protagonists, while not going too far down the “men’s rights” rabbit hole. While it wasn’t a terrible episode by any means, I’m hoping that God Eater offers a more definitive episode next week that captures the spirit of the series’ fantastic third episode, and I’m also crossing my fingers that Gangsta. and Seiyu’s Life! continue down their current path of quality. Lastly, Snow White can hopefully pull itself away from the countless shōjo series pitfalls that now litter its path, thanks to its newest character addition. Snow White can be so much more! Either way, I hope to see you back next week for my thoughts on the best–and the rest–in the week’s anime.

Survivors of the Week

Classroom Crisis
Snow White with the Red Hair
Monster Musume
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.