SHAFT does it again. Or more appropriately, Shinbo does it again. Mixing a profuse amount of experimental artwork—along the lines of “Did I try this style yet? Eh, just toss it in (again?)!”—and witty satire, this episode is likely one of the best this season.
It does everything one would want (or at least I would want). On the other hand, some may be dissatisfied with Zoku’s change of pace and flopped direction reversal compared to SZS. While SZS focused almost entirely on character intros and then proceeded to having Nozomu relentlessly give a tirade on one specific criticism in the succeeding episodes (all of which flowed amazingly well), Zoku decides to change up the formula and go at it with smaller skits. And it’s amazing how well this is done. Granted, the analytic criticisms here are not as detailed as SZS’s in general, but I would argue this is a +1 to Zoku. Why? Well, because at times SZS seemed to border along the lines of analytic criticism rather than comedic satire/commentary, feeling more like a discrete compilation of essays delving into society’s problems. Certainly a lot of scenes were hilarious, but the majority of the time I only felt like chuckling at all of humanity’s tiny little mistakes more so than laughing out loud at them. A case of being too high brow? Perhaps.And herein lies Zoku, which does what SZS does best – comedy. Comedy is the primary goal of such a series and for which social criticisms are merely a part to enhance (or more accurately, define) the laid-out comedy. As such, Zoku doesn’t have as much analyzed social criticism compared to SZS (though still an obviously integral part of the season), and a quick look at this episode supports this assertion. This episode still has the social criticism the show is known for, but it takes a different approach by adding in even more psychedelic artwork and over-the-top skits to enhance the comedy. And with all our characters already introduced by the beginning of Zoku, we have at what SZS can do best. This episode has everything I’ve ever wanted in this series, and is really so good that the series may become one of my top 5 (or at least top 10) of all time.
My only complaint? It could have flowed just a bit smoother by being consistent in its air time of different characters and in its message(s). But this may just be a mute feeling given how the diverse cast each get an appropriate amount of time in this episode, and how each message is hit upon exactly right.