The theme of competition is strong with this one.

This week was a very meh week, even for the better shows. While Sangatsu no Lion continues to religiously follow the manga and doing everything it possibly can (which can be off-putting sometimes), Hibike! Euphonium only filled in the holes that episodes 1 and 2 left (and didn’t really give us any more to work on).

Meanwhile, proper introductions finally took place this week in Brave Witches, and I like how there are fewer names to remember. Despite that, some of these girls seem too wooden. While character development can be seen in our main MC, fellow Fuso pilot Naoe (who will now be called One Punch Girl in this column!) and Suomus pilot Nikka, the rest of the girls just fall flat. Either that, or their strict military teaching has just made them completely unsociable. Saying that though, Georgette looks to be the airhead, and Waltrud looks to be the big flirt of the group, so at least I won’t end the show thinking everyone looks like they don’t care.

I have to applaud Brave Witches by clapping slowly. They directly copied the rival plot-line that Yoshika and Perrine had in the original Strike Witches, and instead Hikari and Naoe are at each other’s throats…or rather Naoe is at Hikari’s throat, competing with Hikari and proving that she can be just as strong as the one person she was looking forward to seeing: Hikari’s big sister, who is still in a coma, and probably on her way back home. I don’t blame Naoe at all. There were several times where Yoshika drove me crazy. So in my opinion, Hikari deserves everything she gets right now.

As I say, Sangatsu no Lion appears to be covering the manga a lot and in great detail; as in leaving not much out at all (like some manga adaptations tend to do). It has that luxury though, being a 2 cour show…Hibike! Euphonium, on the other hand, left us in some suspense by waiting to give us more meat on the bone.

I know, when it comes to my coverage of Sangatsu no Lion, I’m focusing too much on Rei. Well, this week gave us the opportunity to know more about the other main characters. Before, the three sisters have just been on the fence, and been shown at face value. This week was Obon, so they had the chance to remember lost ones, giving young Hinata the opportunity to show how much she misses her mother; something Rei can’t quite understand, as he didn’t really feel anything when his parents passed on. This episode also showed SHAFT’s animation at the level we all know and love (meaning I can cross more things off my SHAFT bingo card). Even with the emotions pouring out of those around him, this is still ultimately Rei’s show.

For Rei, competition is something that was so engrained in him that he has not known any kind of warm wholesome family interaction; this is clearly the reason why he has decided to stick with Akari, Hinata and Momo. Whenever he doesn’t feel any comfort in going home to his cold and empty apartment, he is welcome in their home (it may be cramped and full of tacky items, but that only adds to the warmth that the sisters generate). He will never escape the dark shogi cloud that is constantly above his head though. It’s his only source of income…but the fact that he potentially gets paid more than his teachers is very amusing. It’s plain to see though that he finds no pleasure in competition anymore. He has this chance to beat some top-ranked players, but it’s like he doesn’t care anymore. I’ve noticed that competition has a strong theme in a lot of shows I’ve watching, including the ones I’m not covering here.

I am worried though that, even though Harunobu and Hinata were the focus this week, we’re still not scratching the surface, and I would have thought it would be about time now for something concrete to happen (even for a longer show).

This current theme of dividing opinions in regards of the point of competitions is very interesting. In regards to Hibike! Euphonium, on the one hand, we have the people who think that the music they play shouldn’t be marked, scrutinised and dismissed without a second thought (like in the competition they are aiming for)…and on the other hand, there are others like Reina, who despite being happy with simply playing the trumpet, feels like competition makes players become better people. Sore losers shouldn’t cry over spilled milk, in other words. Her MLG Pro ‘git gud or git rekt’ line this week was priceless and I was very surprised that Asuka wasn’t the source of the issue regarding Nozomi not coming back; in fact, she has no problem at all in her returning. It appears that she only wants to consider the feelings of oboe solo Mizore, who has her own beef with Nozomi. She is, after all, the only oboe in the competition band, and thus she cannot lose her to someone who is between okay and mediocre on the flute.

It was also interesting how Mizore didn’t really react when she was told off in practice for giving no real emotion in the notes she plays. This could be down to two things: either her own lack of emotion that is up there with Yuki Nagito, or the sudden realisation that she is playing for a major competition…something she has already said she despises. She and Nozomi haven’t faced off yet; they will eventually, and this being a KyoAni show, they’ll reconcile…somehow, or leave this whole story hanging for another season. That’s possible; Hibike! Euphonium was an overnight success, so there’s no reason why they can’t do a third season, or even another movie.

Either way, Mizore will be a key character in this season, as both Ribbons and Kaori were in season 1. So we may not see much concerning the third-years (sadly).

Okay, so I’m trying to find some positive things to talk about when it comes to Occultic;Nine, but it’s a hard task. To be honest, I’d actually forgotten what happened last week, so I had to watch episode 2 again before #3. That alone shows how much this show has won me over! I’d forgotten names, I’d forgotten plot-points, and I’d forgotten how badly this show is animated. Trying to stay positive, the whole occult magazine theme is an interesting one, detailing various spooky and unexplained events around Tokyo. If, say, only 3 or 4 main characters (that were part of said magazine were to cover ALL of this) then this would be redeemable……except that kind of contradicts the title of the show. Overall, I can say something already, and we’re only a quarter of the way in: Occultic;Nine would be a much better show with fewer characters, a more cohesive story and better animation. Oh, and to not give us this weird claustrophobic feeling every time we watch an episode.

Well, while next week might/might not bring some new plot points, I’ll have to wait a bit to find out about them, as I’ll be an official steward at the MCM London Comic Con for a number of days next week. I’ll have my work cut out as it’s an industry event, so feel free to laugh at my laziness and tiredness when I return on Sunday night.