Every once in a while a discussion about anime pops up, where the question is posed as to whether or not a series “needs” great animation if it’s a comedy. After all, if the jokes are funny, what’s it really matter if the drawings don’t move all that much, right? Like most topics about art the answer is going to be nebulous and subjective, but I tend to think of it like having a great sound system or convertible top on a car. Sure, they’re not necessary or appropriate for every situation, but having the option to put the top down and blast a sick ass driving playlist while you gun it on the highway is an unalloyed benefit. A modest or constrained production can still be funny, but having a comedy that can swing for the artistic fences for its punchlines is something I’ll never say “no” to.
All of that is a preamble to justify my gushing about how goddamn good this episode of Bocchi looks. Starting at practically the first frame, this episode is dripping with classic cartoon goodness; from simple background gags like Bocchi brushing her side-ahoge with a bespoke sproing sound while her sister roasts her, to wild style shifts into literal cardboard cutouts, to live-action cut-ins punctuating Bocchi’s emo song lyrics, there are a million and one touches that make the whole episode a pure delight to watch. If I could get away with it the rest of this review would just be a selection of my favorite faces, but ANN’s servers aren’t strong enough to hold the hundreds of Petabytes that would entail. You would be hard-pressed to find a full 30 seconds of this episode that didn’t feature some kind of clever detail or charming expression that enhanced a punchline, and it makes for some of the best cartoon watching in a year with incredibly stiff competition. To reuse an analogy, the top is down, A Wilhelm Scream is blowing out my speakers, and the highway patrol cops all have flat tires so we are free to tear ass down the interstate.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that, while Bocchi is just as much of a nervous wreck as always, she comes away from this episode with a few wins under her belt. Sure, she royally fumbles her way through multiple conversations, but she only died during like two of them, which is what we call progress. Oh, and she successfully recruits Kita to (re-)join the band, unwittingly becoming the girl’s guitar senpai in the process. With how close to home and potentially miserable Bocchi’s particular brand of humor can be, allowing her some small successes does a lot to keep it all just light enough to be funny rather than painful. And capping it all off with a genuinely sweet moment of them practicing together puts a bow on the whole thing.
Kita is pretty fun too. I was initially worried adding another socially competent character to Kessoku Band would just make things lopsided, but despite initially coming off as Bocchi’s polar opposite, Kita proves to be just as much of a disaster as our titular heroine. It’s just that she comes at it all from the other end of the social butterfly spectrum. Where Bocchi is constantly hesitant and shrinks at even the most banal positive opportunity, Kita leaps without thinking to look and winds up in over her head without a life preserver. Like, girl, it’s not that I don’t understand joining a band entirely because you’ve got a crush on the cute bassist, but at least pick up a Guitar For Dummies book beforehand. The punchline of her accidentally buying a six-string bass instead of a guitar was so painful it usurped Bocchi’s aborted attempt to talk to her classmates about offbrand RADWIMPS as the most cringe-inducing moment of the episode.
Outside of that there’s not a ton on the music side this time, though I definitely want to hear a full version of “Double Dark Past” at some point. There’s also an interesting conversation between Kita and Bocchi about why they both decided to join a band, and while both admonish themselves for “selfish” motives, I like that the show itself doesn’t seem to judge either for it. There’s a million reasons, good and bad, to try your hand at music, and wanting friendship or to date your band members is as valid as any other. The second one is probably not a great plan for long-term success, but still, so long as you dedicate yourself to learning, you’ll come out the better for it. Though probably don’t try writing a whole album while you’re breaking up. Most of the time what you get is a lot less Rumors and a lot more Mardi Gras. But regardless of how the band – and Kita’s love life – turns out, this episode itself absolutely sings.
Bocchi the Rock! is currently streaming on