Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle – 10 (Fin)

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Hey, endings are tough; no doubt. But there’s nothing worse than an ending that has you constantly thinking ‘Gee, this really feels like they just realized this is the last episode, and they’re rushing as fast as they can to end it.’ That’s even more disappointing considering Chaika got a second season, albeit a shortened one, to craft a satisfying, well-paced ending.

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Well, it failed. That thought above, that’s something that takes you right out of the fantasy world and into the harsh realities of anime production. I can’t imagine why the producers decided to throw all this stuff into one breathlessly-hasty, plot-stuffed episode, with practically no time to spare for characters, beyond the basic idea that Tooru and Chaika kinda like each other maybe, and that’s why they fight.

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Meanwhile, you have the same huge amount of side characters milling around, needing something to fight, so Gaz has Black Chaika, the Twins, and the other Chaika Dolls deal with Akari, Red Chaika, Vivi, etc. These battles are meaningless and over so quickly they inspire only a faint shrug. Same goes with Tooru’s sudden decision to contract with Fedrica and defeat Shin; it all happens so much there’s no time to care.

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But, yes, in case you were still unaware, Black Chaika has a nice body. Most egregious, however, is the treatment of Gaz, who is a villain so aloof and emotionless it’s easy to forget how powerful he was built up to be. He’s also so wooden in his half-assed monologues about anger, hate and love driving humanity that even Tooru tells him more than once, “Just shut up already, nobody’s listening!”

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Yup, after five hundred years and all the trouble he went through to use the Chaikas to resurrect himself and rebuild his empire, it takes less than five minutes to eliminate him, far shorter a time than Layla and her compatriots last year, who at least had some personality and edge to them. I’m really not surprised Niva abruptly abandons Gaz and flies over to Chaika so she can use her to kill him. The last we see of the Great and Powerful Gaz is him going “Huh? What?” as his Gundo splits. He can’t even muster a loud outburst.

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The ‘cost’ of defeating Gaz is kind of artificially created when Chaika uses all of her ammo randomly shooting at Gaz’s castle, even after Tooru was allowed access. Because of this, Niva has to draw from Chaika’s memories for magical fuel.

This means it’s her turn to make funny noises, then is rendered unconscious and feared dead (or worse, a vegetable) by the time Tooru gets to her, but again, there’s no time for anything to sink in; we’re shoved right into the epilogue starting with a final scene of the GIllette Corps that’s as dull as ever. And no, Vivi doesn’t get a chance to say anything to Gillette.

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The show apparently does have time for one last ‘Akari love loves her Brother’ joke, and we both her and Red Chaika in peacetime garb. As for Chaika…she’s fine…I guess? A bit weak, and she doesn’t call Tooru by name, but not dead. How much of her memory was lost? We’re not really told enough. Doesn’t Fredrica want to fight Tooru to the death? Ah, never mind.

They just stare at a blooming tree and the show cuts to the same ol’ credits as the previous nine episodes. There isn’t even so much as a ‘Thanks for Watching!’ card. I’m almost sorry I did. This was not a good ending.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 12 (Fin)

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Chiyo discovers the Valentines’ day candy she wanted to give to Nozaki. Then we take a trip down Valentines day memory lane from Chiyo and Nozaki’s unique perspectives.

It’s charming and Nozaki be so crazy!

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Finally secure enough with herself, Chiyo decides to give Nozaki the candies anyway… Only to collide with Nozaki in the hall and drop them to the floor! However, because Nozaki thinks he’s enraged Chiyo, and because he can’t comprehend a single sentence she says to him, Nozaki decides to eat the candies anyway, straight off the floor.

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Then its festival time and everyone in draw-manga club is there for various draw manga reasons — and food reasons too. Very little productive happens but everyone seems fully set in their relationships, even if only due to mometum.

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Waka will continue to chase Seo and she will be unaware but enjoy his company; Kashima will continue to love Hori, who will continue to be annoyed because he thinks she doesn’t like him, and Chiyou will stay with Nozaki because he doesn’t not like her and honestly enjoys having her around.

… and Mikorin will continue to be a secret Otaku… because we didn’t have time for him to get a love interest in the first place.

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Chiyo and Nozaki end the festival high above on a quiet play ground and Chiyo reminisces about their first meeting. As now, Nozaki was awkward, hard to predict motives, but adorable. As now, it was his contrasting characteristics that drew Chiyo to him: thuggish but wanting dainty things, mean but helpful, and strong but prone to awkwardly falling asleep.

Then Chiyo confesses her love for Nozaki, who doesn’t understand her over the fireworks and confesses his love for fireworks too. Instead of breaking her heart, Chiyo laughs with this pure, consistent Nozakiness and comes to love the moment for what it is: fun, even if he doesn’t love her.

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GSN dash K strolls out the door with a graceful charm that almost hides how little it has evolved over these past 12 episodes. Sure! It’s a slice of life piece and those almost never go anywhere, but good grief! Not even Kashima’s singing side plot gets resolved!

Still, episode 12 was a solid piece of story telling. The use of flashbacks were especially effective at reminding us how much has happened, antics wise, if not emotionally for the characters. (I dont remember why Nozaki was always in bandages in the beginning!)

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Thanks to Zane for handing this one off to me. always charming, usually funny, only a few girl-hitting bumps along the way. GSN dash K deserves a place in the top pics of the summer season.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 12 (Fin)

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This final episode earns full marks for adrenaline-pounding zeal and sheer boldness, as well as remaining true to its characters until the very end. In the final scene, in the castle’s Aldnoah chamber, the very place where Asseylum snatched a Terran victory out of the jaws of defeat, we not only lose her, but Inaho as well. That’s a steep butcher’s bill than we expected even for a show we thought would be one-cour-and-done; it’s even more daring considering a second season is coming next year.

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On the one hand, it sucks to see Inaho and Seylum go down so abruptly after they had achieved so much. On the other, both had fulfilled their purpose. Seylum shut the castle down, Inaho had held off the baddies long enough to let her, and after she dies, it’s almost a given that Inaho too will either keel over from blood loss or, as is the case, gets shot by Slaine. Both were friends of the princess, and she would have wanted them to get along, but it just wasn’t in the cards.

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It isn’t until his final moments that his memories and feelings of Seylum rush over him like a crashing wave, so on the whole I’m okay with this, it’s a tragic but also oddly logical end for both of them, and it shows that the good guys can’t have it all. (I will say I am extremely glad Inko is still alive and hope we see get to see more of her in the future.) What wasn’t so logical, and what prevents this final ep of A/Z from a higher rating, is what led up to this final scene.

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I don’t mind at all the crew of the Deucalion being too wounded to assist any further, nor do I have any particular qualms with Yuki and Inka making their way through the castle with the princess (Your Princess IS In This Castle!). What turned me off was that here was his already overpowered kataphrakt getting even more buffed up and combined with others into one big Mega-phrakt in a transformation scene that goes on too long in a show that never spent this kind of time on such things before. It was a bit too Gundam-y.

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And you can call it ironic if you will, but after all that build up to how huge and powerful and invincible this guy just became, Inaho is simply able to survive far too long. Even if he’s the best Terran kataphrakt pilot in the world, his primative orange kataphrakt should be crushed like a Coke can in the first minute of fighting. What’s the point of an super-powerful mecha if its shields have such an obvious weakness? This was yet another case of the Martians possessing ridiculously superior technology but no tactics to speak of.

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In earlier battles this might have been excusable, but in particular with Saazbaum, a dedicated, decorated veteran and otherwise capable commander, to fall so easily to the underdog. At least the overarching message that has endured throughout A/Z remains consistent: Inaho and the Terrans only survive as long as they do thanks mainly to appalling incompetence on the part of the Martians. You can’t even say they did a good job with the initial invasion, because they were never able to finish the job.

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Those issues aside, this was still a thrilling and satisfying end to the series (the music-less end credits were particularly stirring)…were that the case, that is. I’ll confess I wasn’t aware of a second season, and it’s not something I’m 100% sure I needed in my life, but A/Z has definitely earned the right to get a close look. Like Inaho, it’s been a mostly level-headed, dependable and proficient mecha show, and I’m curious to see where it goes without two of its leads. But that’s not for a few months yet. Till then, farewell A/Z, and RIP Inaho and Asseylum. You’ll be missed.

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Final Average Rating: 8.50
MAL Score: 8.13

Akuma no Riddle – 12 (Fin)

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“If the will to kill Haru can possibly exist, then that will is mine and mine alone. It would mean that my will is free. That it is not being manipulated by Haru.” This is the crux of what Tokaku has to work out: whether she protected and love Haru of her own free will, or if she simply succumbed to Haru’s inate ability to manipulate others in order to survive.

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When all is said and done, it would seem that her will is indeed free. Even after defeating Nio, who used the black arts her clan is known for to impersonate her, Tokaku still tried to kill Haru. Haru survived, though, since her ribs are made of titanium, and kept the knife from Haru’s heart, where Tokaku aimed. Thus, the show has it’s cake and eats it too.

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As the closing montage shows, Akuma no Riddle was ultimately just as bloodless as Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, or Sakura Trick, for that matter: none of the assassins I thought were killed actually died; they all recovered from their injuries and live on. Once a means to test Haru’s mettle, now they’re back to their own lives, only Class Black changed them all.

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The class wasn’t all about Haru and Tokaku, as we know. The show went to lengths to flesh out the various assassins in the episodes in which they struck. It showed how they were all in one way or another either running away from their past lives or trying desperately to validate them, but their defeats to Tokaku and Haru led to growth, and now they’re all moving forward.

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While this episode couldn’t quite match the intense showdown with Hanabusa, it was nevertheless a suitable end to the series. Tokaku won, and in the process proved to herself she protected Haru of her own free will. If her wish was to be able to continue being with Haru, it looks like that was granted. We don’t know how she answered Kaiba’s final riddle, but if I had to guess it would be that she told him the thing that the world was full of…was love.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.75
MAL Score: 7.01 (Fickle Punks!)

 

Nagi no Asukara – 26 (Fin)

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Nagi no Asukara’s finale deals with a lot of big concepts and ideas—that love with all its good and bad facets is preferable to no love; that the belief in fate can mislead; that things can change, though they don’t necessarily have to—culminating in the show’s final line delivered by Hikari: “The world is filled with so many shining feelings.”

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Yet in the midst all this large-scale, lofty philosophizing, the characters remain sturdy, and aren’t lost in the rush. On the contrary, each and every character we’ve come to know and love shines as brightly here as those feelings Hikari described. This was a finale that efficiently tackles and largely resolves many of the conflicts that had built up, plucking an overall victory from the depths of despair, and richly rewarding us, the audience, for sticking around.

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At the end of my last review I made a partial list of questions I hoped the episode would answer…and it did! As I’m still a little overcome by the bittersweet emotions that always come when a great show comes to an end, I feel like the best way to organize this review is to answer those questions:

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Will Manaka’s feelings return? They do, thanks to Miuna and the Sea God himself, righting an ancient wrong. Not wanting the original Ojoshi-sama to follow her love from the surface into the depths of despair and death, the Sea God took away her feelings, not even knowing who they were directed at. In an impressive display of his and nature’s force, those feelings are released from the graveyard, and the sea starts to move again and eventually warms.

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Will Miuna really stay down there? Thankfully, no; Hikari can’t help himself and busts her out of her cocoon, just as he did Manaka. As he says, even if he wanted Manaka’s love more than anything, and finally has it, he didn’t want it that way. Miuna is also released, safe and sound, and while the reality that Hikari loves Manaka remains, her love for both of them and relief they’re okay is just as strong.

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Will the rest of Shioshishio wake up? With all that racket from the Sea God carrying on, you’d better believe it! Suitably, Hikari’s dad is the first to appear, and Hikari is shocked by the knowledge he possesses until Dad tells him he heard what Hikari told him when they first broke through to Shioshishio. Seeing him hold his grandson (and Akira tugging on his beard) was one of many tear-inducing high points of the episode.

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Will the global cooling cease? It sure looks that way, as Shioshishio is back to its bright, beautiful self (it was always beautiful, but it’s no longer a haunting, melancholy beauty). The saltflake snow has ceased, and the surface apocalypse, while not cancelled outright, has certainly been delayed for a good long while. Life returns to normal for the gang, only now they’ve sorted out their feelings.

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From Sayu trying to look pretty for Kaname, to Tsumugu and Chisaki acting like the loving couple are, to Miuna no longer being crushed by her own feelings, everyone seems so much more relaxed and happy; they really are shining. But perhaps none of them more than the original couple, Manaka and Hikari, who share an intimate walk on the beach in the parting shot.

She brings up how she intended to tell him something before she was lost in the last Ofunehiki five years ago, but now there’s no need for her to say it; Hikari knows she loves him. All’s well that ends well.

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Second Cour Cumulative Average: 9.23
First Cour Cumulative Average: 7.69

Total Cumulative Average: 8.46
MyAnimeList Score: 8.52 

Kyoukai no Kanata – 12 (Fin)

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Reunited within Kyoukai no Kanata, Akihito and Mirai work together to fight their way to its core. Izumi duels Fujima, who reveals to Hiromi that both of them conceal youmu within their bodies. When surrounded by dead humans, Akihito tells Mirai to close her eyes and listen only to him, breaking the illusion and revealing a massive congregation of monsters, whom Ayaka and Ai help them defeat. Once Akihito beats back the Kyoukai no Kanata and forces it back within him, Mirai vanishes along with it, after confessing her love. Some time later, all is back to normal, and the ring she left behind vanishes. Akihito runs to the school rooftop, and reunites with Mirai.

All of the light and dark colors that make up the world combine like paint into gray. Evil will neither ever totally disappear from the world nor totally absorb the world. It’s a world that matches its inhabitants, and few inhabitants match it better than Kanbara Akihito and Kuriyama Mirai. Both had loathed the darkness that lurked within them their entire lives, regarding it as a curse they must bear, but wished it would go away. Despite their hatred for their darkness, it was their darkness that brought them together. When Mirai took Akihito’s youmu away, it took her away too, and he learned he couldn’t live in a future without either. Fortunately for him, things worked out so he wouldn’t have to, because honestly, this would’ve been a pretty cruel episode if she’d stayed gone simply because of…magic n’ stuff.

And so the first Fall 2013 series we saw is the first to end. We had our doubts early on: it initially looked and felt like a rehash of past KyoAni series that while good didn’t require revisiting. But a quarter of the way through, we were proven wrong consistently and thoroughly. Conscious that fantastic production values (which it had) alone do not a great show make, KnK gave us a lovely, slowly-building, often gripping, not unpleasant romance between two characters with compelling chemistry, infused with comedy that was smart but not smarmy. We could have done without the one-dimensionally evil Fujima, and were never that interested in Nase Izumi’s dark past, but they did represent paths Mirai and Akihito could have gone down, were it not for their love for each other.

For all the darkness they both harbored, Mirai and Akihito ended up shining the brightest. Long live Glasses Girl, and her beloved Immortal Half-Youmu!

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Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating: 8.333
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/18/13): 7.91

Stray Observations:

  • The episode used every second of its running time, eschewing the usual OP and ED, a move we feel is essential to a good finale.
  • As shown above, there was a little E.T. in the moment when the lovebirds are floating in the sky between planes of existence.
  • We were also a little disappointed in how inert Mitsuki was down the stretch. Or perhaps she was a love triangle red herring all along, as she saw Akihito as more of another troublesome brother.
  • Ayaka is a really cool-looking youmu, so it’s kinda disappointing that Ai’s just a kitten. Not that she isn’t cute.
  • That rooftop scene gave us the happy ending we wanted, and the presentation of the glasses had all the formality and suspense of a proposal. Nicely done.
  • Chu2Koi 2 will have some shoes to fill when it premieres next month.

Oreimo 2 – 16 (Fin)

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After Kyousuke and Kirino graduate from their respective schools, they are confronted by Manami, who has come to fight Kirino for Kyousuke. She comes right out and calls their romance disgusting and threatens to tell their parents,. After several blows are exchanged between her and Kirino, Manami confesses to Kyousuke, who turns her down, saying Kirino will always come first. She slaps him and leaves. Kyousuke and Kirino get married in a chapel and exchange a kiss, and then go back to being normal siblings, as they decided on Christmas Eve.

We knew Manami was going to be upset when she learned about her betrothed going out with his little sister, but we had no idea she was going to be such a badass in this final episode. She beats Kirino up and pours a big ‘ol glass of cold water all over the pair, telling them all the stuff no one else had up to that point. Her scolding falls on deaf ears, not just because Kyousuke had chosen Kirino, but because unbeknownst to Manami, their romance was always going to be a temporary one, and just wasn’t quite over yet. What Kirino whispered to Kyousuke was that once they graduated, they’d put their romance to an end and continue on as proper siblings.

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This begs the question: if that romance was temporary, what purpose was served by having Kyousuke burn his last bridge with another girl? Why break so many hearts to confirm to  Kirino that her brother would destroy his entire love live six times over if it meant just a few fleeting months as her “lover?” Was it really worth ruining so many of his friendships to have a pretend wedding and a chaste kiss, only to drop it all right afterward? The extensive fallout really doesn’t seem worth it, even if the conclusion (they didn’t actually become  lovers) was a foregone conclusion (this isn’t siscon eroge).

So the series ends on a logical, if somewhat awkward note, having backed Kyousuke and Kirino into a corner and callously discarded legitimate love interests for a fling that didn’t and wasn’t even supposed to last. But while Kyousuke’s unwavering devotion to fulfilling his little sister’s selfish whims often frustrated and even maddened us, we won’t deny we were also greatly entertained and at times downright moved by his many exploits over the last two seasons.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 12

And so, the best series of the Winter 2011 season ends – in late April – not with a whimper, but with – what else – the re-making of the entire universe. Madoka can make any wish, so she decides to wish for there never being any witches. This pisses off Incubator, but it happens. Of course, there’s a price to be paid. That price is, no more Madoka. Aside from episode 10, this is the only time the heroine is a maho shojo, and she’s nothing like any other; as her newly-gained godlike powers allow her to free the souls of maho shojo from soul gems all over the world, so they’ll never become witches. No maho shojo, no witches.

Of course, even though Madoka makes sure to be as explicit and detailed with her wish as possible, the universe proves just as devious as Incubator. The new universe she creates still has Maho Shojo, but they fight “magical beasts” rather than witches. Ah well, close enough! Kyubey is still around, but it seems he’s more of a friend than a trickster. Also, in the realm/void between the end of the old universe and the birth of the new one, Madoka and Homura say their goodbyes, and Madoka gives her her hair ribbon. The result of this is, Homura is the only person who remembers Madoka. Even for her brother, Madoka is just an imaginary friend. While Madoka is now free of her fate, Homura can’t be all that happy her best friend had to sacrifice her entire existence in order to eliminate witches.

While this series has never been shy about highly abstract settings, especially when dealing with witches, the whole end-of-the-universe transition was a little sudden and overwrought, with whispers of End of Evangelion. The naked space Madoka and Homura bordered on silly-looking, and their tearful goodbye, while earned, bordered on sappy at times. Despite these issues, the series ended strong, and now complete, I can count it among my favorite anime series due to its highly original and entertaining twist on the maho shojo genre. It’s also perhaps Akiyuki Shinbo’s finest non-comedy series. Don’t be put off by the girly opening and frilly costumes; this series has true grit. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.750

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Gahh, I just watched the second-straight finale of a Fall 2010 anime in which the bad guy is defeated by an Epic Punch To The Face. Only in Star Driver’s finale, both the puncher and punchee were characters of consequence, with stakes of even greater consequence still. Youthful super-evil/vain father, Tokio/Head, wants to destroy/rule the entire world, and by breaking the last seal, Wako, and Sugata and Samekh under his command, he can do it, too.

But Takuto/Tauburn won’t go away quietly, nor let his dad get away with hurting his friends, which leads to the eventual punch to the face. To get to that point, he depends on all of the members of Glittering Crux expelling Head, retaking their reborn cybodies, and fighting alongside Tauburn (both out of simple morality, but also because he scorned them, using Crux as pawns all along). Thus we get an epic multi-cybody battle with the same bite-and-burn animation we’re used to, only turned up to 11. To paraphrase one Crux member, they finally get to fight in a battle that matters, not just one that serve’s Head’s schemes.

But what of Sugata and King Samekh? Sugata is ready to sacrifice himself to seal him off once and for all and prevent the end of the world Head talked about. However, Takuto and Wako share a deep long look at one another, and Takuto then decides to destroy Wako’s cybody and break the last seal anyway. WTF, you may ask; but they simply couldn’t and wouldn’t let the love triangle be resolved so cheaply; by Sugata’s death. Takuto follows Samekh into Earth orbit, where he destroys him and saves Sugata. Thus Wako is still not forced to make a choice she apparently can’t make. And neither is the show.

So yeah, Star Driver. It’s been a long ride, and I have to say I enjoyed it overall. The Tauburn introduction scene got really old, but for the most part the weekly battles stayed fresh and brief. Takuto was a hero who was always upbeat, never angsty; the core of him, Wako and Sugata had great chemistry from beginning to end, and their romantic dilemma was never annoying. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get lost keeping all the characters and Crux factions in check, but having seen the series reach its conclusion, there would be value in re-watching it someday. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.615

Kimi ni Todoke 2nd Season 12

Well, after about 39 episodes of hand-wrining neurosis, I really couldn’t have asked for a better finale to Kimi ni Todoke. The two lovebirds finally know about their feelings for one another, and couldn’t be happier that they both feel the same way. They’re far more comfortable around one another, and no longer care what other people think (or at least, can live with what other people think).

Sawako and Kazehaya aren’t the only ones who’ve made progress. Kurumi and Kento are left to lick each other’s wounds – even if from the looks of it Kurumi isn’t all that interested. Chizuru has some really thoughtful things to say (I love it when this show treats her like a human rather than a clown), and Ryu’s confession to her – and her reaction to it – are just about pitch-perfect. Good luck, you crazy cats! Also, if Yano ever had a thing for Pin, it doesn’t amount to anything, but that’s okay, as Yano seems to like her independence.

Oh yeah, can’t forget: Sawako finally gives Kazehaya his gifts! Continuity, FTW! And while I thought it was silly that she didn’t give him these gifts at the proper times, but better late than never, and heck, from Kazehaya’s perspective, his girlfriend is already showering him with gifts. Nothin’ wrong with that. Nothin’ wrong with this ending, either. It wasn’t cheap, and it tied most everything up in a neat little bow. One last thing: Pin getting annoyed by the couple’s “sparkly aura” and shooing it away? Frikkin’ hilarious. Rating: 4

Series Mean Ranking: 3.346