Shinobu opens by describing what Tsukihi is – a “Dying Bird” – like a phoenix, but more like a cuckoo that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. Thus Tsukihi is fake and immortal, but ultimately harmless. After leaving Karen to guard Tsukihi, Koyomi and Shinobu go to the cram school to confront Yozuru and Yotsugi, respectively. After much discussion, Yozuru brutally beats Koyomi, but he doesn’t die. Shinobu handily defeats Yotsugi, and a heartfelt declaration of commitment from Koyomi makes Yozuru philosophically conflicted, such that she retreats, content to let Tsukihi live with Koyomi as her mentor. Life returns to normal for the Araragi siblings, and Koyomi promises he’ll let his sisters meet his girlfriend.
One thing we’ve learned from watching several of Akiyuki Shinbo’s works: he doesn’t skimp on endings. He didn’t skimp here. This was an impressive finale, blending bold, fast-paced, dramatic animation and music with lots of smart and intriguing philosophy (Yozuru even breaks out Mencius and Xun Zi), and wrapping up the story nicely by getting to the root of things. Shinobu drinks some Koyomi blood and powers up to her adult size, which is a dead giveaway she means business (Her exchange of taunts with Yotsugi prior to their duel is priceless). Finally, Yozuru proves to be far more flexible than she originally seemed. Rather than having to kill or defeat anyone, Koyomi gets off with a severe beating (he quickly heals from) and a goodbye.
We were expecting a nonfatal outcome, though. Koyomi’s dealings with Oshino and Kaiki, combined with the resolve bourne from his unconditional love of his sisters, lend him the strength to stand up to Yozuru’s verbal sparring and come out the victor, making her forfeit. It’s not surprising she was university buds with Oshino and Kaiki, and it’s neat how the three of them have totally different beliefs when it comes to the value of real versus fake – crucial in the climax. Yozuru believes the real is worth far more. Oshino believes they’re equal. Kaiki believes the fake is worth far more. It really sums up their respective M.O.s. Koyomi seems closest to Oshino on this point: his sister may be a fake, but she has always been his sister and he has always loved her, so it makes no difference to him.
Coorie confirms the identity of the Serenity battleship: it’s the Queen Serendipity, the flagship. The Bentenmaru observes the Serenity fleet as it prepares to lure the Golden Ghost Ship. Marika orders an FTL jump into the space-time quake, and the ship endures gravity rings and massive shock waves. At the end of the ordeal, they finally find the massive ghost ship. The Queen Serendipity hails Gruier by name; it’s her younger sister Grunhilde, who insists Gruier withdraw at once, presumably so she can destroy the ship. Gruier refuses, and the Bentenmaru docks within the ghost ship before the fleet gets there. The ghost ship re-enters subspace and prepares to make an FTL jump with the Bentenmaru inside her.
It’s out of the frying pan and into…a larger, meaner frying pan this week, as the danger gets kicked up to 11. After flying through one hell of an astronomical gauntlet, the Bentenmaru emerges in a clearing and the Golden Ghost Ship gets a regal reveal that’s full of awe. The damn thing is 24 kilometers long and made of gold, after all! Gruier finds herself at odds with her sister, whom she believes is being manipulated. Their conversation isn’t exactly cordial, and it’s a strong moment for Gruier, who’d been a little mousey up to this point. We came away from this episode liking her a lot more.
While the space gauntlet, princess face-off and ghost ship reveals were the main set pieces this week, this episode has a lot more to offfer. Marika continues to progress as a fine pirate captain when she has Gruier leave the bridge to suit up while she reiterates to her crew that their safety, and that of the ship, is her top priority. “If things get bad, we run,” she says – they’ll help Gruier as much as they can, but they aren’t about to die for her. Kane also exhibits some boss flying skills by performing a backwards combat landing into the ghost ship hangar, leading to Marika’s line of the week: “We got smacked in the butt!”
Yamanobe announces he and the Sket-dan have been invited to represent Japan at the World Grand Prix of Genesis in the remote kingdom of N’preenu Ch’p’p’s’b, where it’s the national sport. Requiring four players plus a manager, they enlist the help of athlete extraordinaire “Captain” Chiaki Takahashi. They arrive and are perturbed to have never heard of most of the participating countries. They defeat Wyoming first, and after a rough start, Chiaki quickly gets the hang of things and excels, taking over the teamcaptaincy from Bossun and emerging as the MVP.
After a string of Serious Sket, this week marks a return to good ol’ lighthearted comedy. We mentioned we loved made-up sports when Genesis was introduced way back in episode 8, and we’re even bigger fans now that we know there’s a whole international movement devoted to it, including four regional schools. Adding Chiaki into the mix was a welcome move too, as she is the series’ resident expert at all sports, and we liked how her role evolved from unsure noob to MVP (and potential marriage to the N’preenu prince, which she declined.)
While Chiaki’s tangible motivation was the year’s supply of some strange seafood, she also admitted to an apologetic Yamanobe that she just loves hanging out with the Sket-dan, no matter the reason. She finds their passion for whatever comes their way (which sometimes builds up gradually from initial apathy) admirable and addictive. And while Sket Dance had previously done a sports anime parody, this had enough unique elements to provide fresh and memorable laughs. And we also know we need to bone up on our geopraphy – we pride ourselves on knowing the names of all the nations of the world!