It's been a while since I last watched this series, and I have to admit that the flip humour caught me off guard. The actual story here in the second episode isn't much deeper than what was seen in the first episode, although there is slightly less concentration on introductions as viewers are given a chance to become better acquainted with the many characters. The question is how many of the upcoming episodes will be of various members of the Ryujoji Shinkakeryu (school of swordsmanship) challenging Jubei to battle or if this is going to be the main thrust of the story overall.
The direction in this second episode is very good with solid timing of lines and visual cues. Indeed the interplay between visual cues, music, and dialogue all work solidly together. The fast paced action and especially the visual activity both in the fore and background could potentially be missed by many viewers. There are times when not only is the animation lightning paced, but so is the dialogue. While I don't have the subbed version, it makes me wonder as to how fast some of the subs would be going by on the screen thanks to the sheer speed of the dialogue.
The animation is an interesting mixed bag between some good detail and rough drawing style depending on the atmosphere of the scene. This variation in styles is very important to creating the overall feel of the scenes and alot of care is taken to include lots of different things happening both in the foreground and background detail. This attention to the minor aspects of the show, really helps enhance the overall impact of a given scene (and also makes for an overwhelming amount of information being thrown at viewers).
So far, there is little subtlety in this show. Indeed most things are depicted in a very plain and obvious manner such that things seem to be almost superficial. However, that's not to say that this is simply a comedy and nothing more. The scenes from the dojo at the beginning of the episode has a more serious atmosphere than usually seen in the rest of the episode. This in turn creates an interesting contrast compared to the tongue-in-cheek, sunny feel elsewhere. Likewise, the scene following the duel makes one wonder as to the power and influence of the Lovely Gantai and what it can do. These minor hints of something more serious serves to bait viewers into continuing to watch the series as we are drawn further into the story that is slowly unwinding before us. However, the hints so far are very minor and may even be missed by many viewers.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this episode is in developing Jubei's attitude towards the Lovely Gantai as well as character interactions between the main characters Jubei, her father, Koinosuke, and Ryujoji Shiro, but especially between Koinosuke and Jubei. Both characters are set in doing things their own way regardless of what the other wants resulting in tension (and fighting hair). The question is how long this flippant approach to presenting the characters and story will continue, especially considering that the series is only 13 episodes long. However, as it is early in the series and people are still getting used to the various characters, the visual humour in the show will hold viewers' attention despite having the basic story.
Three incidental characters are introduced in this second episode which I'm not quite sure how to take as yet. The inclusion of the rich girl who seems infatuated with Ryujoji Shiro and her two maids *seems* to serve as another aspect of comic relief on top of Bantaro and his two lackeys. However, whether this will prove to be the case or whether the three females will actually serve some purpose in the series waits to be seen. Since they only had a brief appearance, we're left feeling confused more than anything else about them.
Maybe I'm looking too far into the story and what's being shown, but I have to admit that there are times where I feel that there's still more happening than I'm actually keeping track of. The mention of names in passing, the very tongue-in-cheek attitude and approach to things are suggesting that maybe there are a lot more in-jokes happening than I'm catching. Whether this is the case or not... I'm not quite sure. (If I were catching everything I probably wouldn't have this feeling though). Even so, despite this feel of not catching everything that's happening, we can still enjoy the show for what we do catch. Not to mention they make great trivia questions. While I hope that we get into more story soon, I have to admit that I'm curious to see where things go next.
- JYN, 2001.04.01