[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 11 (Fin)

What’s worth saving, today or tomorrow? I think I’d have to go with Yoga and say tomorrow. The case for Mikuni’s way got weaker and weaker, as his numerous uses of Midas’ rotary press essentially bankrupted Japan. It was finally Yoga’s turn to stand up to him and fight to get Japan’s future back. The first half is almost non-stop action, as their duel reaches fever pitch. The combat system of [C] was always a bit dorky, but never boring, and this week was no exception. More than anything, it was basically what the whole series has been: ambitious, creative,  intriguing, and weird.

That said, there was a breakthrough, as Yoga saw Mikuni’s most powerful asset, Q, for who she was; Mikuni’s sister Takako. Q is a crazed demon-like fighter, but while fighting Mashyu, who all but became human thanks to Yoga, snapped her out of it. Yoga defeats Mikuni, and the latter ends up in a 2001-style time warping sequence in Takako’s hospital room. Basically, she wants him to stop fighting. She wants the future to unfold as it should, not be stuck in the present.

If all this sounds abstract, it is, but it was still cool. And the animation, while a bit choppy and far from perfect, was at least really bright and vivid. When Yoga reverses the rotary press, the financial district becomes all sparkly and pretty, like there are christmas lights everywhere. It is here where Mikuni says goodbye to Takako, and Yoga bids farewell to Mashyu, who now well and truly loves him. Their passionate kiss seems a bit strange after Yoga earlier saw her as a daughter-like figure, but whatevs.

When he returns to the real world, things look pretty good – the Sky Tree is back, and the city is clean and cared-for, people are prosperous. The teacher’s family appears to be back. Hanabi also seems back to normal, but doesn’t seem to know him anymore. In an interesting twist, Japan is now using dollars, the yen having literally vanished into nothingness (a nice tie-in with the opening sequence). But the financial district isn’t gone, and neither is Mazakaki, or his godlike boss, who makes a cryptic appearence here. Still, I don’t see Yoga going back to Midas anytime soon. He could never get back everything he lost. He’s learned the cost of playing around with the future. Rating: 4

P.S.: About a year ago this month, I snapped a picture of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Nihombashi. Coincidence? Well, yes, actually.

Sket Dance 12

This is the episode where I totally stopped caring about what’s at stake in this ridiculously high-budget competition between Sket-dan and the Student Council, because the show doesn’t really care about it either at the moment, it’s all about the here and now. And it delivered not one but two superb duels – one between Tsubaki and Shinzo, and another between Switch and Daisy. The two matches couldn’t have been more different, but they both worked, and rocked.

Tsubaki probably had Shinzo hook-line-and-sinker had he not called into question his samurainess. The words stung Shinzo deep, and made him remember his master’s teachings. The fact he burst his own second-to-last blood ball was particularly badass, and it made sense why he did it – Samurai only have one life to give; and his only two options are to win or die. So with the teams tied at one victory apiece (complete with victory rock that reminded me of Queen), Switch volunteers for the shoot out with Daisy in a dark warehouse.

Daisy may well be a crack shot who carries out orders without hesitation, Switch arguably scores the first unofficial point by loosing a barrage of information about her character, along with his analysis that she may be into S&M. She returns fire with perhaps the best and most elegant-sounding insults of the whole season – “Dobu De Oborete Shinde Ikikaete Mata Shine”, or “Drown in a gutter and die, come back to life, then die again.” Itai! Another nice touch – the two are kitted out in classy noir costumes.

As I said, Daisy has the better eye (though they both wear glasses; who knows), but Switch has a laptop, which he uses to misdirect and fool her into thinking he’s out of ammo. It’s more chess than pistols, as Switch uses his heretofore ambidexterity to get the winning shot just one-hundreth of a second before Daisy shoots him. Margin for error was zero, but he had confidence. Sket-dan up 2-1. Now, will the ringer, Roman, lose the “love challenge” against Uryuu, or will Bossun lose the last match to the council Prez? We’ll have to find out next week. Rating: 3.5

AnoHana 11 (Fin)

That was a properly fitting and satisfying finale. It cemented its place as the best series of the season by far, along with perhaps the most consistent, moving and best-executed eleven-episode series I’ve ever seen. I was expecting a good ending, but I could never have predicted just how totally it would kick all ass. Nothing in it felt the slightest bit contrived or out of place; it remained fiercely true to its characters, and above all, was a surprisingly happy ending, and the perfect place to close the book.

After Menma fails to pass to heaven, the busters regroup and it turns into an all out cryfest, with everyone pouring their guts out. Even Tsuruko gets worked up for the first time. Even Poppo lost his composure. And in this mega-catharsis, they all finally realize that none of them are alone in their inconsolable grief or guilt. They’re all in the same boat. They can all forgive each other, and themselves. They all love her. And I’m sorry, but Anaru’s little eyelash moment was the perfect way to re-lighten the mood.

After this, Jintan races home to collect Menma so they can finish things and say goodbye. But she’s fading fast; it turns out, her wish was inadvertently granted: the wish to make Jintan cry. She promised his mom she’d do it. More specifically, to make him break out of his shell and properly grief, embrace the pain and the love that’s released, and to be able to live his life. By the time he reaches the base, he can’t see her anymore, and is sent into a panic. “Oh no,” I thought; “Will this just end with him still crazy?”

Thankfully, I had no reason to worry. She says goodbye to them all by hastily scrawling goodbyes to everyone, which sets off another cryfest. All that’s left is to finish the game of “hide and seek” – at the end of which everyone can see Menma – and get Jintan to cry once more, and then she disappears, content and with her wish fulfilled. Closure at last!

What follows is a phenomenal end-credits epilogue, in which Jintan goes back to school and shows signs of giving Anaru a chance; Poppo is working construction and studying for a diploma; and Yukiatsu and Tsuruko become an item (her tiny smirk is genius. I honestly wouldn’t mind these two as the focus of a spin-off).  This series was an emotional roller coaster, and its makers knew the viewers wanted and deserved this ending and wrap-up. Menma’s ultimate gift was bringing these friends back together.

So what have we learned? Well, first of all, director Tatsuyuki Nagai and scriptwriter Mari Okada put on a romantic drama clinic, and I shall most definitely be looking out for their next works. Secondly, don’t collapse within your own grief. Everyone has it; let it out and make your true feelings known. Don’t let ghosts haunt you. Er…don’t go up to a hotel with a guy you just met. And, of course stay in school! Rating: 4 ~Series elevated to Favorites~